Warning to aggressive beggars in Solihull
“Aggressive beggars” – whose tactics are said to be putting off some people from visiting Solihull town centre – will not be tolerated, a senior councillor has said.
Concerns have been raised about an increasing number of people “taking advantage” of the public’s good nature by pretending to be homeless and trying to intimidate shoppers into handing over money.
Cllr Tony Dicicco, cabinet member for the environment and housing, has warned them against coming into the borough and said the council would use all the powers at its disposal to deal with any problems.
He insisted that the local authority was continuing to work hard to help those who are genuinely homeless, but advised shoppers not to give food or money directly to people on the street – amid fears this could encourage further begging.
Instead he suggested donations to charities like St Basil’s – which runs a hub at Kingshurst – or Solihull Churches Action on Homelessness.
“At the end of the day we want to be a caring and considerate council, looking after people in Solihull and if they fall on hard times we want to help them,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
“But we are not there to facilitate [begging], something that is an anti-social – and in some cases criminal – behaviour.
“We have already had emails from people who have contacted the council to say they have been approached by beggars who are being quite aggressive and it’s putting them off coming to the town centre.”
Cllr Dicicco said the problem was not unique to Solihull and that in Birmingham city centre some people purporting to be homeless would be seen making their way to the train station later the same day.
And in Walsall last week, similar concerns were raised about organised beggars said to be exploiting the generosity of passers-by.
Solihull Council can liaise with police to move on people who are causing problems and Cllr Dicicco said it will continue to monitor the situation.
Meanwhile, genuine homelessness continues to be a cause for concern both in the West Midlands and nationwide.
A survey carried out on 29 November last year – made public in recent weeks -suggested there were four rough sleepers in Solihull that night.
The overall figure for the borough is said to have fluctuated between two and six in recent years and the council has said it is continuing to provide support.
While the number of people without a roof over their head remains relatively low compared with neighbouring authorities, opposition groups remain concerned about the “hidden homeless”.
Ward councillors report that housing is a major part of their caseload and there are worries about a rising number of people sofa-surfing or struggling in temporary accommodation.
At last week’s cabinet meeting, Cllr James Burn, leader of the Green group, said: “Obviously it’s been quite concerning over the last year I think [the number of approaches] to Solihull Community Housing (SCH) has almost doubled.
“And the number of people we’re putting in emergency accommodation is I’m sure putting huge pressures [on services].”
Cllr Dicicco reiterated that the council had allocated additional funding to recruit extra SCH staff to meet the rising demand.
Read more: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/warning-aggressive-beggars-solihull-15820503