Homeless 'make £80 a day' begging on streets of Shrewsbury
Homeless people are turning down offers of accommodation and can earn around £80 a day begging on the streets of Shrewsbury, police chiefs have said.
West Mercia Police superintendent Mo Lansdale discussed a range of policing issues with Shrewsbury Town Council on Monday evening.
Councillor Jane McKenzie asked the about the issue of homelessness on the streets on Shrewsbury, which has been of concern in the town over the past year.
Superintendent Lansdale admitted that Shrewsbury is a lucrative place for homeless people to beg, and that some have turned down the chance of accommodation to remain on the streets.
She said: "I think the issue here is unfortunate in that Shrewsbury is a lucrative place for them to come.
"They will have five pound notes being dropped in for them, and have a rack of food behind them.
"They have all been offered accommodation and have chosen to turn that down.
"One issue is they feel safe here, Shrewsbury is a safe town.
"It is a lot safer than other areas and they feel more vulnerable there.
"At the moment some can make roughly £80 a day in Shrewsbury."
In the summer, action was called for to address the number of rough sleepers in the Pride Hill and town centre area, and in September homeless service The Ark said it was helping more people than ever in the town.
Superintendent Lansdale said the force is working with other partner agencies to put a long-term plan in place to address the issues.
She said: "With begging, you can arrest someone for begging. They then go before the court and get a fine, so they go back begging.
"There is work going on to identify some sort of long-term solution to it."
One councillor, Alex Phillips, asked about the issue in Telford and how it was different to Shrewsbury.
Superintendent Lansdale added: "In Telford they don't make as much money as in Shrewsbury, and there aren't as many homeless people as they don't have a town centre.
"There is Southwater but that is the cinema and restaurants so there isn't as big an issue there."
Big rise in Shropshire homeless figure
The number of homeless people in Shropshire has seen a significant increase in the past year, writes Local Democracy Reporter Andrew Morris .
The number of rough sleepers was found to be 21 during a headcount held last year, up from 13 the previous year.
The rise concerned members of Shropshire Council’s Health and Wellbeing board, who said they were grateful for work to help support those who had fallen on hard times.
Laura Fisher, presenting a report on the situation to the board, said a head count was carried out over one night and had seen the rise.
She said rough sleepers were being offered the chance for accommodation in the winter.
She said: “The annual rough sleeper count took place in Shropshire the evening of November 20, last year.
“Shropshire entered a figure of 21 verified rough sleepers. The count was formed from a spotlight count in Shrewsbury alongside known verified data from Task Force Meetings to provide an estimate for the market towns.
“Housing Services activated Cold Weather Provision (CWP), which is a non-statutory provision of accommodation for all rough sleepers in the county, on December 14.
“This will be ongoing until March. CWP is an offer of accommodation to all current known rough sleepers as well as any that present during the winter months.
“This provision offers stability and security to rough sleepers identified by Shropshire’s taskforce, and presents different opportunities for officers to engage with and provide support to those requiring it.
“Assistance is provided to explore a range of accommodation options in an attempt to find suitable, permanent accommodation away from street homelessness.
“For those who refuse the offer of CWP there will be an offer of Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) during times when the weather is considered severe.
“An example of this would be consecutive nights of below freezing temperature. SWEP is offered in conjunction with Shrewsbury Ark utilising a mixture of volunteers and officers to staff the provision. To date this year, three nights of SWEP have been offered and we will be meeting about this upcoming weekend today.
“The Outreach service continues throughout the winter period, attending any reports of rough sleepers and making them aware of the advice and support available. Outreach covers the whole of Shropshire.
“MHCLG has funded Shropshire Council £20,000 towards the cost of Cold Weather Provision for the winter months of 2018/2019.”
Professor Rod Thomson, the council’s director of public health, said: “People are vulnerable now for many, many reasons and there is an accumulative effect.
“We have seen a continued loss of public health funding, the latest we were told about on Christmas Eve. We are working with what we can.”