Tagged: Changing Lives

Charity boss warns of ‘organised gangs’ of beggars

Fagan-type gangs could be making up to £100 a day from begging on Newcastle’s streets, a charity boss claims, in the latest attempt to demonise the poorest – not to mention attacking the  results  while ignoring the causes.

Steve Bell, chief executive of Changing Lives in the city, has welcomed the move to ban aggressive beggars from Newcastle city centre.

The charity works with people who are homeless, battling addictions or dealing with other problems.

Mr Bell said: “We welcome what the council have done. If people want to give they should not be giving money – a cup of tea, a sandwich.

“There’s been a massive increase in people begging but not using our service or sleeping rough.

“We know there have been some harsh conversations between the rough-sleeping population and those coming in to beg.

“Some people are earning over £100 a day from begging.

> As usual we’re told they’re earning this or that – given that they’re unlikely to be keeping accounts, how do we know this ? 

Secondly, if you’re really earning over £100 a day, why on earth would you want a ‘normal’ life living on £72 a week ?

Full story : http://northstar.boards.net/thread/132/charity-warns-organised-gangs-beggars

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Election Candidates urged to back pledges on homelessness

A North-East think-tank is calling on parliamentary candidates to support a series of pledges to tackle the region’s homelessness crisis.

Research by the North East Homelessness Think Tank (NEHTT) has shown that many more people are at risk of homelessness today than at the time of the last general election in 2010, and that the numbers of people falling victim to homelessness are rising.

These trends are particularly worrying because of recent changes to housing and welfare policies and potential plans for further cuts to public spending.

NEHTT, of which Northumbria University is a founding member, is asking candidates to sign up to its charter to support specific action by the next Government.

NEHTT is a regional group comprising academics, researchers and policy officers.

Key partners include Northumbria University, Youth Homeless North East, Homeless Link, Shelter, Barnardo’s, Northern Housing Consortium, Changing Lives, IPPR North, Oasis Aquila Housing and the NE Regional Homelessness Group, as well as independent specialists.

The pledges are:

*Appropriate housing with adequate support services will be provided for vulnerable people making access to sufficient social housing a priority.

*Housing benefit will be retained for under 25s

*It will be compulsory to find settled accommodation for offenders leaving prison or who are homeless within the community.

*All houses in multiple occupation and B&Bs which cater for homeless people will be inspected and must provide good quality facilities.

The statutory definition of homelessness will be improved by ensuring that all forms of homelessness – rough sleeping, those in temporary accommodation and ‘sofa surfers’ – are officially recorded.

 Adele Irving, research fellow at Northumbria University and one of the founding members of NEHTT said: “We believe that it is vitally important that policymakers not only recognise and take action to address homelessness, but actively campaign and work towards achieving long-term change in the law around homelessness.
 “The charter is a series of pledges which we hope candidates elected on May 7 will support in the next parliament.

“The pledges are based on the knowledge we have, from a wide range of research evidence, about what would make a real difference to address the key issues encountered by many homeless people, and in particular about homelessness amongst single people and under-25s.”

So far, signatories include four Labour candidates and six Green candidates. Further support has also come from two Labour front bench MPs, and two Conservative candidates.

Source – Northern Echo, 10 Apr 2015

Charity repossesses empty houses and turns them into flats for the homeless

A charity has welcomed its 50th tenant under a scheme that repossesses empty properties and turns them into homes for the homeless.

The Homelife project, which is run by the Team Valley-based group Changing Lives, was funded by the Government’s Empty Homes Programme.

And this week – after 58 uninhabited houses across Tyneside were bought up in the 18 months since the charity received the funding – the scheme reached a half century of new tenants.

The man, named only as “David”, sough help to kick a drug habit after he was released from prison in 2012.

And now, having turned his life around, he has moved into a new flat in Willington Quay, North Tyneside.

I had problems with drugs,”he said. “I came out of prison in 2012 and I got into the Oak Tree project, which is a non-residential rehabilitation scheme.

“My life started changing from then on. The support has been immense. I’ve advantage of every service they’ve offered.

“It feels exciting to be in my own place now. It’s a fresh start. This is a bridge to normal living.”

David, 27, from South Shields, was in prison for two years for committing grievous bodily harm, but he now hopes to soon become a support worker.

“I’ll be talking to people who have had similar problems,” said David. “Someone did it for me and if they hadn’t, it could have been a very different story, so I want to do that for someone else now.

“I like working, it takes me out of my own head. I’m not the same person today. It’s amazing.

“I thought I was in control before but now things are so much better.”

The charity, which aims to have taken on 120 houses by March 2016, said the project has been a huge success across Tyneside, helping to house around 75 people in the last year.

Val Nevin, assistant director at Changing Lives, said repossessing the empty houses had benefited the community in a number of ways.

The houses we buy-up have been empty for at least a month, but many of them, like this one, have been lying empty for years,” she said.

“These properties were a mess so for the neighbours it’s also been a relief. It’s nice to have it renovated and brought back into use.

“And we’ve had really good feedback from people who have moved into the flats. They’ve got a ready made, quality home, and we only charge 80% of the local housing allowance, so they are affordable.”

The project, which has seen families from across Tyneside rehoused into brand-new affordable flats, is also designed to get clients of the charity working on the projects.

James McBurnie, who works as a builder and decorator on the Homelife project, said making homes for people who have had similar problems to him gave him immense satisfaction.

I get a lot of job satisfaction when I see people moved into one of the flats I’ve helped renovate,” said the 25-year-old from Sunderland.

I was in prison in 2009 for attempted robbery, and I’ve been in and out of prison all my life, but when I got out the charity helped me get support for my drug misuse and alcohol misuse.

“I had to try and sort my life out and stop re-offending and they gave me the opportunity to have some stable work.

“There’s a very fine line between being on the straight and narrow and slipping back into that life, and I think I could help other people that have been in the same sort of situation as me.”

The charity are urging communities around the country to follow their example. Val said: “It’s such a good scheme and it’s making a difference to so many people.

“More and more people around the country should be taking on this project.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Dec 2014

Newcastle City centre beggars are making up to £200 a day, it is claimed

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

North Tyneside – crackdown on beggars

Operation Dollar has been launched on the back of increased concerns about people begging in North Shields town centre and Front Street, Tynemouth.

Officers from the local Neighbourhood Policing Team will be carrying out high visibility patrols as well as working with other agencies such as the Changing Lives scheme which aims to help homeless people.

Members of the public are being advised to help and not to give money to beggars.

North Shields and Tynemouth Neighbourhood Inspector Geoff Cross said:

“Beggars can be intimidating to some people and put them off from going to certain areas.

“Begging itself is an offence and it is often the case that people who are begging are involved in other crime and anti-social behaviour that has detrimental effect on the community.

“We want people to be able to visit Tynemouth and North Shields without fear of being harassed by beggars.

“Most people begging need help and support or help of some kind, and organisations such as Changing Lives can help put them in touch with the correct support and ensure they get the right help.”

“By ensuring those found begging are directed to the correct support it’s hoped we can reduce the amount of begging taking place on the streets.”

> I wonder in how many cases ‘the right help‘ put them on the streets in the first place ? As we know, Iain Duncan Smith believes sanctions help people focus on getting a job… how many sanctioned people have had to take up a ‘job’ begging as a result of them ?

Source –  Whitley Bay News Guardian,  11 Nov 2014