Housing

Stop giving spare change to start making real change

Hand placing coins into someone else's hand

Posted on: 7 March 2019

North Devon and Torridge Community Safety Partnership (CSP) is launching a new campaign to deal with street begging in Barnstaple.

The aim of Spare Change or Real Change is to change the way we approach people who we see begging in order to provide a long-term solution to their situation.

Barnstaple’s residents and visitors are being asked to think twice before handing out money to the town’s rough sleepers because doing so does not tackle the underlying issues that are causing the homelessness and may in fact make the situation worse by funding life-threatening addictions.

Instead, the partner agencies believe the solution is to build relationships with Barnstaple’s rough sleepers, and by sharing information with local charities, police and other agencies they can gain an understanding of each individual’s background and needs. The eventual aim is to get these people off the streets into housing and in a position to access the support they need. The North Devon and Torridge CSP is the joint crime and disorder reduction partnership for the North Devon and Torridge districts. The partnership includes a number of agencies, including the area’s district and county councils and Devon and Cornwall Police. 

Chair of North Devon and Torridge CSP, Superintendent Toby Davies says: “Partner agencies are working really hard to support people off the streets, and in many cases help them to address any underlying issues or substance addictions. We totally understand the public instinct to try and help, and giving spare change may seem like a kind act and an easy way to offer that help, but in truth it often does quite the opposite and can be used to fund those addictions, exacerbating the issue. This initiative provides clear suggestions on how the public can help through donating to local charities or volunteering. This is not about stopping anyone from chatting to someone on the street who you feel would welcome that conversation, or getting someone a cup of tea; but if you want to meaningfully assist a rough sleeper, help us to offer them real change, not your spare change.”

Mayor of Barnstaple, Councillor Ian Roome says: “Rough sleeping is a significant issue both nationally and here in Barnstaple and we recognise this. Homelessness is a situation that most of us will never know, but it is a situation that could happen to any of us. By the community coming together and supporting this campaign to make a real change, we can make sure that our most vulnerable residents have the support mechanisms they need. We want to offer rough sleepers as much support and help as we can in the face of very complex issues. Give your change to local homelessness charities instead and make a real change to the lives of rough sleepers.”

Housing and Homelessness Manager for Freedom Community Alliance, Phil Noall says: “Breaking the cycle of street homelessness is best achieved through a multi-agency approach and this is something we are committed to. We fully support the Spare Change or Real Change initiative as we believe it has the potential to reduce street begging and much of the anti-social behavior that accompanies this activity. It’s easy to assume that there is a lack of support services to assist rough sleepers when we see people begging on the high street but this simply isn’t the case and sadly in our experience giving people money often prolongs their street homelessness.”

Council, police and charity officers will be outside Green Lanes in Barnstaple on 15-16 March to chat to members of the public about the initiative. If you believe you are at risk of becoming homeless, get in touch with North Devon Council as soon as you can on 01271 388870 or email customerservices@northdevon.gov.uk  

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