Homeless man back on the streets of Norwich following prison sentence

Charlie Jennings, who is homeless in Norwich.

Charlie Jennings, who is homeless in Norwich. - Credit: Archant

A 27-year-old rough sleeper is calling for police to take a different approach towards beggars in the city.

Rough sleepers in the doorway of Debenhams at Orford Place, Norwich in October. Photo: Archant

Rough sleepers in the doorway of Debenhams at Orford Place, Norwich in October. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

Charlie Jennings spent five weeks in prison last month after he was caught begging for money in the centre of Norwich.

But having since been released, the former tree surgeon is back to where he started – sleeping rough on the streets with no money.

He is now calling for authorities in the city to find a different way of tackling the issue.

'I want the police to be a bit more understanding of our situation,' Mr Jennings said.

'If you're homeless, you don't really have anywhere else to go. And prison hasn't helped me in any way whatsoever. I think it just seemed like an easier option for them [the police] at the time.

'But what did they expect the outcome to be when I was released? They can't expect change if no one is going to help.'

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Mr Jennings said he was not offered any form of accommodation on leaving HMP Norwich, and now sleeps in a doorway near Rampant Horse Street. Despite growing up in Aylsham, he said he had very little contact with his family. And he became homeless for the first time in May this year after losing his job as a tree surgeon.

He denies ever begging for money, but claims he is still being bothered by PCSOs as they patrol the city centre.

'She [the PCSO] keeps coming up to me and threatening to get me arrested, saying that I am breaching my community order by sitting in a 'begging position',' he said.

'But there is no criteria for what that is. I'm just minding my own business.'

Last month Norfolk police told beggars they should no longer expect to find easy pickings in Norwich. And officers arrested 17 people as part of a crackdown in the city.

A police spokesman said: 'Trying to address the issues associated with begging can be complicated and there can be a common misconception between street begging and homelessness. It is an offence to beg under the Vagrancy Act 1824 and officers will issue warnings to those who are found begging.

'Where genuine issues of vulnerability and homelessness are identified, Norfolk Constabulary continues to work closely with Norwich City Council, St Martin's Housing Trust and the Salvation Army to signpost those people to receive the right support.'

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