Campaign urges ‘don’t give cash to those preying on the public’s goodwill’
- Credit: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL
A charity is renewing its call urging people not to give cash to those on Bury St Edmunds’ streets as they may be “tricking the public” into believing they are homeless.
Bury Drop In is instead encouraging members of the public to give directly to the charity through its Looking for Change campaign, which supports those who genuinely don't have a roof over their heads.
It comes at a time when the town centre has been plagued by street drinking, aggressive begging and antisocial behaviour - the vast majority of which has been caused by people who either have their own home or are jeopardising their place in temporary accommodation.
West Suffolk Council, which backs the campaign, said it's about ensuring people's donations "aren't simply going into the pockets of professional beggars and street drinkers who are tricking the public into believing they don't have a roof over their heads".
David Bonnett, chairman of Bury Drop In, said: "We first launched Looking for Change last autumn and the public support has been great raising around £6,000.
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"It has helped people who were once homeless, get equipment to help them study, it has helped a victim of childhood abuse get to therapy sessions which in turn has helped them stay clean from drugs and start their own business.
"And it has bought items of furniture for people who were once on the streets, but are ready to move into a home of their own."
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The money given to Looking for Change helps people who have been rough sleeping, have stayed in temporary accommodation while they got support for any mental health or addiction issues and who are ready to move into more settled and permanent housing.
Davina Howes, assistant director for families and communities at West Suffolk Council, said: "We have temporary and emergency accommodation in place to help those people who we know are rough sleeping in Bury St Edmunds.
"We know who they are because we regularly talk to them, whether at the Drop In or as part of the work of our rough sleeper outreach team which includes going out and carrying out welfare checks on people who are rough sleeping.
"Not everybody is ready to be helped and even when they are, the team works hard to ensure people don't slip back into old habits and get evicted from the accommodation we have found for them. That's why Looking for Change is so important - it is about giving the right help to make a real difference to people's lives."
Town Clerk Greg Luton, of Bury St Edmunds Town Council, added: "We all want to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves and we aren't asking anybody to stop caring or helping - just to do it in a way that may not feel the most gratifying, but will offer the individuals the greatest chance of turning their lives around."
The campaign is also backed by Suffolk police and Ourburystedmunds Business Improvement District (BID) group.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of the BID, said: "While the council, police and Ourburystedmunds are working together to address this ongoing issue, one of the ways people can help is by simply not giving money to anybody on the streets. If you want to help those people who are genuinely rough sleeping the please donate to the Looking for Change campaign."
Inspector Matt Paisley, of Bury St Edmunds Police, said: "We recognise there is a balance between the people who are genuinely in need which the Drop In and the council are trying to help, and those who are preying on the public's goodwill.
"Our role is working with the council and local business representatives to address the aggressive begging, street drinking and antisocial behaviour in the town.
"Looking for Change is one of the practical ways the public can play their part and help us at the same time."
-To donate to Looking for Change text BSE followed by the amount, so for £5 type BSE5, to 70085.
-People can also donate online here.
-If you know or suspect someone is sleeping rough, report it to the council's rough sleeper team here.