Monday 14 September 2015

Local Sheffield charities have joined forces with Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire Police to raise public awareness of the best ways that people can help the lives of people who beg in our city.

Working together, they are promoting the fact that there are services and support available in Sheffield. And for people that want to help, then giving to charity is the best way to do this. Organisations that work to end homelessness and poverty in Sheffield include Cathedral Archer Project, Big Issue North, Turning Point, Ben’s Centre, Soup Wagon and Street Pastors – all of which are backing the campaign.

Councillor Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Sheffield City Council, said: “We’re working with local charities and partners to raise awareness. We know there are people who currently give money to people who beg because they want to help. However we are saying to these generous people that the best way to do this is to give to the organisations who already provide support and help to people on the street

“We understand that this might feel counter-intuitive but we know what makes a real long-term difference are the organisations who work with people to address the issues they face.

“If you are moved to help, as so many people are, please give to local charities who work directly with people to help them turn their lives around, or buy Big Issue North.“

Nationally homelessness has increased in recent years but has decreased in Sheffield where significant effort is given to prevention approaches which help people early on and aim to stop people’s problems becoming a crisis. The support provided by charities and local services to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless includes providing free food every day, helping people find somewhere to stay, helping them maintain tenancies and providing support and treatment to people who have mental health issues and addictions.

The campaign is being backed by Aaron Rooke, 22 from Hillsborough, who used to beg for money. He said: “I had no motivation when I was street begging but I’m selling Big Issue North now and I’m motivated. And I much prefer it.

“Street begging is easy. You don’t need to do anything and you can do anything you want with the money. People will give you food so you don’t need to worry about that and if you want to spend the money on drink and drugs, then you can.

“I didn’t have any responsibilities when I was begging but now I have and I am determined. Selling Big Issue North has helped me out a lot more than any street begging ever could.”

Cathedral Archer Project, a local charity which supports homeless people to achieve a better life, is supporting the work. Tim Renshaw, Chief Executive, said: “When people are begging and can make a living from begging, some people don’t see a reason to stop. And it’s not a good life – it’s an impoverished one and issues are not being dealt with which led someone to beg in the first place.

“We can improve people’s lives incredibly. And that’s what we’re here to do. We really want people to be generous and keep on giving, but want them to know that giving to people begging on the street can be counter-productive. The best way to help is to give to local charities so we can help these vulnerable people improve their lives for the long-term.”

Big Issue North is also supporting the work and says that people who beg have a big impact on their vendors. Ben Stevenson, Sheffield Coordinator, said: “We encourage people to buy Big Issue North rather than give to people begging on the street as we know that this helps people make positive changes to their lives.

“Our vendors buy the magazines from us and sell them for a profit – and in order to do this, they need to be able to budget their money and plan their time. This helps give them a structure to their lives, gives people confidence, motivation and boosts their self-esteem which in turn inspires them to make long-term changes.

“Begging has a real impact on our vendors as some people will give to a person begging rather than buying the magazine. As our vendors are only allowed to sell in certain places they’re not able to move on to a different patch to avoid people begging, which means it becomes more difficult for them to earn a legitimate income, and make a real and sustained difference to their lives.”

The Cathedral Archer Project estimates that there are around 40 people who regularly beg for money in the city centre. They, and other project partners, are keen to provide earlier and lasting support to these people to help them off the street.

Jayne Forrest, Chief Inspector of Operations in the City Centre at South Yorkshire Police, said: “South Yorkshire Police is keen to support this initiative and would encourage people to give to charities rather than people who beg to make sure they receive the right support.”

Cathedral Archer Project, Big Issue North, Turning Point, Ben’s Centre, Soup Wagon, Street Pastors, Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire Police are all involved in the campaign. The partnership is giving information to people at the train station, in the city centre and to students during Freshers week. Messages will be put out on social media using the hashtag #helppeoplewhobeg and at an event at the Town Hall on 17 September where the charities and services will be giving information about the different types of support available in Sheffield.

AARON’S STORY

Aaron Rooke, 22, from Hillsborough, has been selling Big Issue North for around two months. He used to be homeless and slept rough at Park Hill for around four to six months. He used to beg for money at the train station before becoming a Big Issue seller. He now lives in temporary accommodation.

He said: “I used to live in Hertfordshire. My ex is down there and I’ve got a two year old son. I was a chef and was working all the time and was always busy. Then I saw my girlfriend cheating on me with my best friend. I got in trouble with the law and ended up moving back to Sheffield.

“Street begging is easy. You don’t need to do anything and you can do anything you want with the money. People will give you food so you don’t need to worry about that and if you want to spend the money on drink and drugs, then you can.

“When I was on the street I wasn’t doing drugs and I don’t drink. But people look at you as if you are and think everyone is the same. I needed help.

“I had no motivation when I was begging. I sat at the station for hours on end and was bored. People are always surprised about how much money you can come away with but I didn’t know what to do with it. I can understand why lots of homeless people and people begging turn to drink and drugs.

“Now I’m selling Big Issue North I’m motivated and I wasn’t before. I’m here selling from about 9am until 6pm every day and I’m working for the money I earn. I didn’t have any responsibilities when I was begging but now I have and I am determined.

“It’s much harder than begging but it’s helped me out a lot more than any street begging ever could.

“I’d rather be back working as a chef but for now this keeps me working and ticking over and it’s a good experience. Not everyone understands that selling The Big Issue is real work – I’ve had people come up to me and say “get a real job you scrounger”. But I’m not scrounging. I’m just trying to do a job like everyone else.

“It’s so easy to sit on the floor and get ten pounds and buy a bag of heroin. You know someone will buy you some food so you can spend the money you get on drugs. But people need to stop begging and do something else. I had to, so why shouldn’t everyone else? People need to do something real – there are plenty of opportunities for people. I’ve proven that.

“And I need to think about how my son would feel if he saw me – I’d want him to see me working not begging on the street. And that’s what I’m doing.”