Nuisance beggars in Newcastle City Centre are making up to £200 a day, according to a charity boss who is warning people not to hand over their cash.
> How could he possibly know how much someone makes ?
Kind-hearted folk who have been responding to the beggars’ requests for spare change have even seen one man walk away with £360 from a day on the streets.
> Again, how do we know this ?
Stephen Bell, chief executive of homeless charity Changing Lives said the money is being used to fund addictions and people would be better giving them food and a hot drink if they want to help.
“People are begging to fund one habit or the other, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, and that’s the bottom line. We’ve heard of a case where someone pulled up in their car, changed clothes and then started begging. Beggars at the moment are getting an awful lot of money,” said Mr Bell.
> “We’ve heard of a case where someone pulled up in their car, changed clothes and then started begging.” But how do we know its true ? Surely its an allegation rather than a fact.
This claim actually mirrors a Sherlock Holmes story (I forget the title) where a man finds he can earn more as a beggar than by slaving away in “proper” job. He catches the train up to London (his wife thinks he’s doing a normal job), changes into his begging gear in a rented room, and then goes to work.
He said it is crucial for the public to realise the distinction between someone who is begging and a homeless person.
There are currently services across Newcastle which work with the city’s homeless and enough bed spaces for people so that no one has to spend a night outdoors. Changing Lives also do a daily check at 5.30am on how many people are sleeping rough in the city centre.
However over the last two years he said there has been a significant increase in begging.
> And a significant increase in sanctions. Coincidence ?
“Please do not give money to beggars. Give them a drink or a hot meal or give your money to a charity. We need to stop killing people with kindness. The police can help, they can move people away from main streets, but inevitably they just move them to another place. Not giving money genuinely does work, there would be a drop in earnings,” he said.
The warning comes as Northumbria Police is revealed to have made a record number of arrests for begging in 2013 with 61 people detained.
While statistics are still being compiled for 2014, figures for arrests are considerably reduced and police have said it is not their aim to prosecute beggars, but instead help them to work with charities.
Newcastle Superintendent Bruce Storey said:
“The reason the figure went up in 2013 was on the back of an increase in reports to police about concerns around the issue of beggars and begging, primarily in the Newcastle city centre area.
“These concerns came from local residents, visitors to the area and local businesses in the city centre and the issue has been, and continues to be, a priority for the city centre policing team.
“Our aim is not to arrest or prosecute beggars. We are keen to ensure those who need help are given it and we are running operations where we work together with charities and partners to identify those who need help or support and ensure they are given assistance.
“Northumbria Police and our partners are doing everything we can to assist genuine homeless people, whilst tackling those individuals who come in to the region to beg then leave.”
Newcastle City Council have said the roll-out of tougher powers handed to authorities put a stop to aggressive and persistent beggars from the Government have been delayed until January.
Eventually councils will have the legal power to give beggars injunctions in an attempt to prevent nuisance and annoyance to the public, and to compel them to accept accommodation and to get help for drug and alcohol abuse.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Nov 2014
A pro-cannabis rally was held in Redcar to “start a sensible debate” on legalising the Class B drug.
It was held by Teesside Cannabis Club at Redcar Rugby Union Football Club’s fields on Green Lane on Saturday afternoon.
John Holiday, 30, from Middlesbrough, started the club as his interest in the medicinal qualities of the drug grew.
“We have had five get-togethers in the North-east but not on this level,” said John, who registered the group six months ago.
“We have got three main areas: medicinal, recreational and industrial.
“This rally gives people a hands on approach, a chance to get involved with other like-minded people.
“Everything happens down south so this is to give people something to get behind in the North-east.
“We got permission from the rugby club and we’ve had meetings with the police.”
John began using cannabis for medicinal reasons several years ago when he suffered with Crohn’s Disease style symptoms which saw him hospitalised having lost a lot of weight.
“I had negative experiences with prescribed medication – tramadol addiction, various side effects,” he said.
“I take cannabis in a capsule instead now, it’s coconut-infused cannabis oil. I do smoke it recreationally too.
“Five years ago my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had all the chemo and radiotherapy and had positive results in the beginning but the side effects of that was it killed off his immune system and he passed away last June.
“We didn’t get the chance to trial cannabis with him, it’s very hard to make the cannabis oil to treat cancer and it’s not something you can do legally in the UK.”
Colin Richardson, 41, from Pallister Park, Middlesbrough, said: “I have been using cannabis since I was 11. You don’t hear of people using cannabis committing crimes. It’s different from other drugs.”
Rolfie Lokikush Larsen, 37, from Guisborough, said: “It’s just time to have a sensible conversation about this. We’re talking about a plant at the end of the day.
“It’s time people realised that stoners are responsible people who can hold down jobs and bring up kids. I am a single father of two children and work as a volunteer for Guisborough museum.
“Cannabis should be on the same level as alcohol and cigarettes. It should have the same restrictions.”
Cleveland Police checked in on the peaceful rally throughout the event.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 03 Aug 2014
To the dismay and anger of Labour councillors present at a Coventry Council debate on food banks, Cllr Julia Lepoidevin couldn’t wait to get stuck in and demonise local residents who turn to food banks to help feed their families.
The tory councillor for Coventry’s Woodlands ward suggested that people who visit food banks prefer to “choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs” over providing food for their own children. The comment prompted swift calls for her to resign her position.
“But do colleagues in this chamber never have cases where families make a conscious decision not to pay their rent, their utilities or to provide food for their children because they choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs?
“There are families that have enough income and make a choice. It might be a shame but it is true and those very families that I describe are the very families that will not engage with our services early and our services then have to pick up the problems through social care.
“This is why we need to know the impact lifestyle choices are having on our children. Until we know that we are never going to know the proper picture.”
Labour Councillors present at the food bank debate were so disgusted and angered by what they were hearing, Lord Mayor Hazel Noonan had to step in to restore order.
Responding to the comments made by Julia Lepoidevin, Labour Councillor Damian Gannon said:
“Councillor Lepoidevin’s comments were, quite frankly, reprehensible.
“Those in poverty aren’t feckless, they aren’t alcoholics or drug users, they aren’t looking for an easy life on benefits – they are hard-working people, low-income families who are looking to do the best they can for themselves and their families and that’s a fact!”
Labour’s Ed Ruane, cabinet member for children’s services, added:
“Councillor Lepoidevin’s commented that people who use food banks in Coventry do so because of lifestyle choices and because they are feckless.
“If she genuinely believes this appalling slur then she should produce the evidence or resign from the shadow cabinet.”
A furious operations director at a Coventry food bank said Councillor Lepoidevin’s comments risks stigmatising food bank users and could deter the city’s residents from donating to the food bank, which helps feed almost 18,000 local people a year.
Speaking to the Coventry Telegraph, operations director Gavin Kibble said:
“People come to us because they are referred to us by third-party agencies.
“One of those agencies is the agency for people recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol. But you can’t do the drink and drugs and just turn up. People are signposted to us through agencies.
“The food bank does not decide who it gives food to, it works on a voucher referral system from agencies.”
He added: “It sidelines people. We have people referred to us from domestic violence agencies, children’s services, debt issues.
“Are we going to stigmatise every part of society and question every decision they have made before deciding if we help them?
“We are going down a very dangerous road. Where do we stop?”
“It won’t stop people seeking support, but comments like that might stop people donating.
“When councillors make comments like this, for one reason or another, they muddy the water and that doesn’t help.”
Local Conservative Party leader John Blundell later backed his colleagues comments by referring to “some” bank users as being “feckless” sections of the community, who “do not engage” and “take advantage” of the service food banks provide.
He said: “I think she was talking from personal experiences. I think, undoubtedly, there’s a certain section of the community that is taking advantage of food banks just as there is a section which has genuine need. I would stand by that.”
“Her comments are a reflection of the frustration that families do not engage with us because they are feckless, they have issues connected with alcohol and we find it a very frustrating exercise.”
The Coventry Telegraph say that around 50 local people a day are using food banks and the total number (17,663) is up 40% in just 12 months.
Source – Welfare News Service, 27 June 2014
A THIEF downed five cans of booze in public view in a South Tyneside supermarket – in a bid to get arrested.
Martin Lazenby drank the cans of Smirnoff vodka and cranberry juice at Asda in Coronation Street, South Shields, before leaving the evidence littered around the store.
The 47-year-old even initially told a member of security staff he had consumed 12 cans of the alcohol when stopped.
Lazenby, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to stealing the cans – valued at £9.10 – at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
He had carried out the offence at about 5.35pm on Thursday, and spent the night in custody after being arrested before appearing at court.
The court heard Lazenby had been sleeping rough at the time, and went in the store and took the alcohol in the hope of getting arrested and spending a night in custody with a roof over his head.
Paul Kennedy, defending, said: “He had been suffering from fits, and went into the store to get some alcohol to stop the shaking.
“He consumed the alcohol in the store in the hope of being arrested and spending a night in the cells.”
Lazenby was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay compensation of £9.10 to Asda, as well as a victim surcharge of £5.90 – reduced from £15 due to his lack of means.
Source – Shields Gazette, 22 Feb 2014
FEARS are growing over a rise in beggars who are “blighting” South Shields town centre.
Police, traders and charity workers have all expressed concern over an increase in the number operating in South Shields Town Centre.
Where once it was rare to see homeless people in street doorways it is now commonplace, with up to six individuals in the centre at any one time.
Gazette research has located several locations in and around King Street where beggars have been operating.
These have included outside of McDonald’s restaurant, the PDSA charity shop in the Market Place, the doorway of a vacant premises beside the British Heart Foundation, Lloyds Bank, at the Games Workshop in the Denmark Centre and at Morrisons in Ocean Road.
Today, the public were advised to give food and clothing to beggars but not money, as many are believed to be using cash handed over to buy drugs and alcohol.
Gill Peterson, assistant manager at Age UK in the Denmark Centre, regularly has beggars operating on either side of her shop.
Mrs Peterson says she has reached the “end of her tether” at their activities, claiming they scare off customers, hurl abuse and rifle through bins at the back of the premises.
She added: “I’m sick of them. They scare customers off, particularly our elderly ones and we are losing trade as a result.
“Any money they get just goes on buying bottles of cider. Every morning, I have to get in early to sort out the bins they have emptied through the night.
“If I approach them, I just get a mouthful of abuse. They are blighting the town.”
Amelia Luffrum, project director with Hospitality and Hope, the borough-based food bank and soup kitchen, said the public should only offer beggars food.
She said: “Homelessness is definitely rising from our experience.
“Some of the people who are out in these doorways, asking for money, come to our soup kitchens. They are in genuine need.
“Dependency on drink and drugs is a major issue. Our policy is never to give money. We feed them, give them sleeping bags and clothes, and direct them to different agencies.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Peter Sutton, of the Riverside Police Team, acknowledged there was a problem and said the situation was being monitored.
He added: “We are aware of the issue and are actively working with our partners on how the situation can be addressed, as concerns have been raised around criminality and vulnerability.”
Latest statistics show a 54 per cent rise in people seeking homelessness assistance from the local authority last year, from 187 to 534.
The impact of welfare reforms, including the ‘bedroom tax’, and a struggling economy, are among the reasons for the increase.
Source – Shields Gazette, 20 Jan 2014
The Salvation Army‘s new regional pay structure came into force at the start of the month, bringing with it cuts in pay for hostel workers – including at the Salvation Army’s Swan Lodge in Sunderland.
The charity says the cuts are in response to changes in funding for homelessness services from central and local Government.
Clare Williams, regional convenor of the union Unison, said: “These changes will result in workers doing the same job in different areas of the country for different levels of pay, which in itself is unfair.
“However, it is aiming to achieve this by implementing severe cuts to pay and service conditions without properly considering the effects on its own workforce and the services it provides to vulnerable people locally.
“The charity says the changes are to secure future contracts for homeless services paid for by the Supporting People Grant.
“The irony is that the impact of these cuts upon its own staff will put many on the poverty line and some at risk of losing their own homes.”
Readers might like to consider the fact that the Salvation Army are also enthusiastic users of forced labour – unemployed under threat of benefit sanctions – to staff their charity shops. Perhaps they have plans to extend forced labour to other areas of their organization.
More on the SA and unpaid labour here –
Perhaps we need a resurrection of the Skeleton Army – a diffuse group, active in Southern England, that opposed and disrupted The Salvation Army’s marches against alcohol in the late 19th century. Clashes between the two groups led to the deaths of several Salvationists and injuries to many others.
A fascinating – and largely unknown – example of popular protest. Read more here –