Visitors to Aylesbury, and other towns across Aylesbury Vale, are being encouraged to donate to local charities rather than to give money to people begging on the street. The ‘Spare Change or Real Change?’ campaign highlights the fact that many people begging have drug and alcohol misuse issues and giving them money enables them to feed their habit, rather than engage with agencies that can help them to make positive changes to their lives.
Not all people begging are homeless – but use begging as a way of supporting their habit. There are a minority of people begging who are genuinely homeless – but there are a range of support services that are there to help them. And, during the whole of January and February, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC), working in partnership with Vale of Aylesbury Housing, has emergency accommodation available – providing a number of bed spaces for those sleeping on the streets.
How can you help?
If a member of the public sees a person sleeping rough and has an immediate concern for their health and wellbeing – they should call 999.
Overnight, at weekends and on Bank Holidays, contact StreetLink who will connect with local services by calling 0300 500 0914 or contact: www.streetlink.org.uk.
And, Monday to Friday 9:00am to 4:45pm reports can be made directly to AVDC’s Housing Service by calling: 01296 585168 or by completing the online report at: www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/rough-sleepers.
The campaign highlights ways that members of the public can support people with genuine needs. This includes talking to beggars and offering them food or a drink, rather than cash; encouraging them to engage with support services – including the free overnight emergency accommodation; and supporting local charities working with local homeless people, either by donating or volunteering their time.
The Aylesbury Vale Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI), led by AVDC, involves a coordinated partnership of agencies offering a comprehensive package of support including housing advice and support, money management support, support for substance misuse and mental health issues.
The campaign is being supported with posters in and around Aylesbury town centre; posters and leaflets being made available to town centre businesses and social media posts that highlight the benefit of diverted giving.
To find out more about the initiative, the support available to rough sleepers and beggars in Aylesbury Vale and a list of frequently asked questions go to: www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/rough-sleeper-initiative.
Councillor Mark Winn, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “Working closely with our partners we have made significant progress in assisting street homeless move into accommodation. More needs to be done to assist those with significant and complex support needs – but we also need the help and involvement of the public to achieve success.
“No one should feel guilty if they don’t give cash to people begging, as there is a network of support ready to help people make real and positive changes to their lives.
“There is no need for anyone to beg in order to survive. In addition to the emergency accommodation we are now able to provide and the various support services, there are also a number of local charities and church groups that provide free hot meals to people in need.
“Given that the life expectancy of someone living on the streets is early to mid-40s we are desperate to engage with people and offer them assistance as soon as possible.
“I've been out at night and met lots of our rough sleepers. Many have serious addiction issues. Our dedicated team of outreach workers is trying to help them on a journey from addiction, so that they don’t live on the streets. There have been real success stories.
“Money given to those that beg often helps fund an addiction. Please talk to them. Give them food if you wish. Divert money to some great local charities. But, please, don’t give money to those that beg.”
The Rough Sleeper Initiative is being supported into a second year of grant funding from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. To date partners in the project have supported more than 60 individuals who were homeless, or at risk of becoming street homeless, into accommodation and are actively engaging with those still living on the streets of the Vale, offering the specialist assistance and support to encourage these individuals into their own accommodation.
The key partners in the RSI are:
Aylesbury Homeless Action Group – www.ahag.org.uk
One Recovery Bucks – https://onerecoverybucks.org
Oxford Health – www.oxfordhealth.nhs.uk
Oasis Partnership – www.oasispartnership.org
Connection Support – www.connectionsupport.org.uk
Thames Valley Police – www.police.uk/thames-valley/N106
Aylesbury Town Centre Partnership - www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/section/aylesbury-town-centre-partnership
Other partners and supporters include:
Vale of Aylesbury Housing – www.vaht.co.uk
Aylesbury Business Against Crime - www.nabcp.com/aylesbury-business-against-crime
Aylesbury Citizens Advice – www.aylesburyvaleadvice.org.uk
Youth Concern Aylesbury – www.youthconcern.org.uk
Aylesbury Food Bank - https://aylesbury.foodbank.org.uk
Vineyard Storehouse - https://aylesburyvineyard.church/storehouse
P3 - www.p3charity.org/services/buckinghamshire-housing-support-service-
Street Angels - https://www.aylesburytownchaplaincy.co.uk/street-angels.html
Bridge the Gap - www.btg-aylesbury.uk
St Joseph & St Clare’s Catholic Church - http://stjosephandstclare.co.uk
Space Aylesbury – at St Mary’s Church - www.aylesburyspace.co.uk