Stop giving money to rough sleepers and donate to homeless charities instead, says Norfolk Police

Norfolk Police is advising people to donate to charity. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA W

Norfolk Police is advising people to donate to charity. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Stop giving your money to rough sleepers and instead donate to homeless charities - that is the message from Norfolk Police today.

The force is encouraging people to 'think again' about handing over cash to those who purport to be homeless in the county.

It comes as Norwich City Council's deputy leader claimed more than half of the rough sleepers refused accommodation when it was offered to them.

Chief inspector Nick Paling said a distinction must be made between those who are homeless and those who choose to sleep rough.

He explained: 'Whilst carrying out our work with partners we have identified that many of those sleeping rough in the city have access to accommodation, but can earn up to £300 a day from members of the public who give them money.

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'We would encourage the public to make their change count and think again about giving money directly to those who purport to be homeless and instead re-direct their generosity to local charities who can provide real, long-term help.'

He advised people to donate to homeless organisations like the St Martins Housing Trust and Salvation Army in Norwich.

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Charities have reported an increase in the number of rough sleepers around the city this winter.

It is believed that changes to the Universal Credit system and a lack of accommodation in the private rental sector has caused the issue.

Derek Player, general manager of St Martins Housing Trust, agreed that people concerned about homelessness should donate to charity.

But he said that buying someone on the streets a coffee or a sandwich was 'perfectly acceptable'.

In regard to claims that there were a number of rough sleepers refusing accommodation, he explained it can be more complex.

Mr Player said: 'When they do come into one they have to face up to their responsibilities and address some of the issues that brought them onto the streets in the first place, and not everyone is ready for that.'

At a Norwich City Council meeting on Tuesday, Gail Harris, deputy leader and cabinet member for council housing, said Norwich was a 'magnet' for those facing homelessness or rough sleeping in the region.

She said a number of people on the streets were already receiving support and accommodation in one of the 320 hostel beds in the city.

And she added that some of them 'may choose' to beg in order to top-up their income or fund substance misuse.

As part of the council's Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), 27 people were offered accommodation this winter as temperatures plunged.

But Mrs Harris said: 'In these extreme weather conditions, it is more vital than ever that people take the help on offer, but disappointingly this is not always the case.

'More than half of the rough sleepers offered accommodation either refused it, or failed to use it.'

Following an increase in the number of homeless people in the city over the past 12 months, St Martins Housing Trust has had to expand its accommodation.

The charity has recently completed a £180,000 three-bedroom extension at its Bishopbridge direct access hostel in Norwich.

It also includes a 'sit up' service, which will allow people to come into the hostel, store their items, have a shower and wait to be seen by staff.

The charity received more than £31,000 in donations on Saturday to help cover the cost of the new extension.

The bishop of Norwich, The Rt Rev Graham James, who handed over a cheque of £29,772 to the charity, said: 'The most sensible thing to do if you want to prevent homelessness is to give money to a charity like St Martins.

'Sometimes being on the street means your life becomes very chaotic, and it is not always just money people need in these situations. Sometimes they need structure.'

Anyone requiring immediate assistance with accomodation should call Norwich City Council on 0344 980 33 33.

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