A campaign has been launched to tackle antisocial behaviour and begging in Aldershot, by encouraging people to donate to local charities rather than giving cash to people begging.
The ‘Positive Change’ campaign will focus on how people can support long-term change for individuals who may have previously been associated with rough sleeping in Aldershot, and who may continue to socialise, drink and potentially commit antisocial behaviour such as begging.
Currently, there are very few homeless people sleeping on the streets of Aldershot, but the number of people begging is increasing, and a small group also regularly gathers in the town centre, leading to complaints about antisocial behaviour.
Now, Rushmoor Borough Council and Safer North Hampshire are urging people who live in, work in or visit Aldershot to make a real difference by donating any loose change to local charities, not to people begging. By doing so, they can give individuals the best opportunities to make positive and lasting change in their lives.
A number of ‘Positive Change’ charity collecting tins are available in shops and council buildings in Aldershot and Farnborough town centres, so that people can donate loose change in support of the campaign. The money will be collected regularly and split between the following local charities:
- Step by Step in Aldershot, which works to empower young people and prevent homelessness. The charity provides accommodation, personal development opportunities and specialist support
- The Vine Centre in Aldershot, which provides a range of services to disadvantaged members of the community (aged 18+). These services address the immediate physical & mental health needs of clients, as well as their longer-term needs
- The Society of St James, which manages North Lane Lodge for rough sleepers with complex needs. Clients often have complex issues surrounding homelessness, including addiction and mental health problems
Councillor Ken Muschamp, Deputy Leader of Rushmoor Borough Council, and the chairman of the Safer North Hampshire Partnership, said: “There are currently no rough sleepers in Aldershot – we need to explode that myth – but we are aware that there are some complex issues in the town centre. There is a world of difference between people who may have slept rough in the past, because they had to, and people who drink on the street, cause antisocial behaviour and have a home to return to, if they choose. Through this campaign, we want to encourage residents to work with us to make a positive change by donating any loose coins to local charities, not people begging, in order to help people leave the street for good.”
Rushmoor Borough Council opened North Lane Lodge, a nine-bed hostel specifically for rough sleepers with complex needs in February this year, and this has greatly helped to reduce the number of street homeless. Also vital in helping to decrease the number of rough sleepers locally has been the Home Group housing association’s Street Outreach team, which has been going out daily to make sure they have access to the specialist support needed to move their lives away from the streets. Temporary bed and breakfast accommodation for vulnerable people in Rushmoor will also be available this winter. The council has a responsibility to provide accommodation to rough sleepers if the temperature drops below freezing for three consecutive nights.
Councillor Muschamp said: “We will always offer help and support to people who really need it, but we also need to increase awareness about the real situation on our streets. Many people on the street have complex lives, which may include drug or alcohol dependencies, money problems and family issues. Begging is often a symptom of another underlying issue, such as addiction. Giving money to people who beg can worsen or prolong these issues. It is vital that they receive the right, targeted help to provide the best opportunity to help to raise them out of their situation.”
Cllr Muschamp added: “This issue is not particular to Rushmoor – it exists in most large towns and cities in the country – but we are determined to help those who are genuinely in need. Donating money to specialist, coordinated help provides the chance of receiving the support they really need.
“In launching the campaign, we want to encourage everyone to be part of the solution. Everyone wants to help, but there is a better way of doing this than giving coins to an individual begging on the street. Money raised from donations in the collecting tins will be split between three excellent local charities, so it will help to provide a real, positive change in lives.”
If anyone sees someone sleeping rough, they can report it on the StreetLink website www.streetlink.org.uk, which will come directly through to the council’s housing team.
Collecting tins are available at the following locations around Aldershot and Farnborough:
- Princes Hall, Princes Way, Aldershot
- Rushmoor Borough Council offices, Farnborough Road, Farnborough
- West End Centre, Queens Road, Aldershot
- Goldstation Jewellers, Victoria Road, Aldershot
- NatWest, Wellington Street, Aldershot
- Bridges Estate Agents, High Street, Aldershot
- Shree Lucky Jewellers, Victoria Road, Aldershot