Six of 85 Leeds street beggars were sleeping rough

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THe ISSUE of street begging and its links to homelessness continues to be an area of focus for Leeds City Council.

Members of the Environment and Housing Scrutiny Committee voiced concerns during its latest meeting about how the right help can be given to those who are living rough on the streets.

Neil Evans, director of environment and housing.

Neil Evans, director of environment and housing.

Coun Ann Blackburn said: “I understand some people come from other areas into Leeds to beg, particularly on a weekend. Many are people who have addictions. They maybe do need some help, but clearly not everybody that’s begging is homeless.

“We need to sort out the ones that clearly do need help from the ones that are just trying to make a quick buck.”

Neil Evans, the council’s director of environment and housing, said work had begun before Christmas to profile 85 beggars on the city’s street.

It found six were sleeping rough regularly, and seven more were occasionally.

Mr Evans said the issue was less about rough sleeping and more about begging, and the reasons for people doing it.

“It’s fair to say a very high proportion of these are begging with addition – alcohol and drugs,” he said. “There are some doing it for economic reasons, but the majority have got an addiction or mental health issues.

“It tends to be mainly men in their 40s or 50s. That very much falls in with the pattern where we have heroin addiction within the city – it’s a middle-aged problem.

“There’s a big piece of work to be done in the public’s mind that handing over money is not helping them to get a bed for the night, it’s helping them get their next drugs or bottle.”

He told councillors the focus was going to be on individual case management.

A update on the issue will be given to the committee’s November meeting.

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