Statement regarding posters
25 September 2017
The posters were developed in consultation with homeless charities in Chester and Cheshire Police as part of a campaign to deter people who actually have a place to live from begging in the city. Research carried out to understand the extent of the issue of begging in Chester included details of an operation, launched by Cheshire Police in 2016. The operation saw beat managers engaging with a large number of people, offering advice and support to help them access services. During the operation a number of people failed, or refused to engage with officers, resulting in a number of arrests. Most of the people arrested either had a flat, a house or resided in one of the local hostels. A number of these people were from outside the Chester area and a number also tested positive for the use of prohibited drugs. Additionally we looked at anecdotal evidence provided by the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit in Chester to help inform the campaign. This included taxi drivers reporting picking up fares from the railway station and dropping people in the city where they have immediately sat down to beg.
A key focus of our research was to understand about homeless and vulnerable people in the city. The council provides excellent services for homeless people with a connection with Chester, working with local hostels, shelters and organisations, many of whom helped with the campaign. The outreach team work on the streets in the city in the evenings to engage with people who are homeless and to ensure they are aware of the support available and to encourage them to access available accommodation. We have been very mindful throughout our planning to ensure the campaign is not aimed at these vulnerable and homeless people, rather those who choose to mislead others into donating money when they have somewhere to live.
Begging is a growing problem in our city, particularly over the recent horse racing season. Whilst there must be support for people who are vulnerable and turn to begging, we also have to acknowledge that people who live in and visit the city centre do feel intimidated when approached by beggars asking for money and we need to tackle this issue too. If people feel intimidated and do not enjoy their experience in Chester, they are put off coming again which is damaging to local businesses and the economy and for the reputation of Chester.
Our campaign aims to support people who need and want help. We are working closely with the Chester Anti-Social Behaviour Unit to engage with beggars to advise of the potential penalties and consequences of their actions and to signpost to support agencies that can help them. We have also raised awareness amongst the general public to discourage giving money to people begging who have a place to live, encouraging them to donate direct to local charities instead if they would like to help the homeless.