GIVING money to the increasing numbers of beggars on Rugby’s streets is ‘not the solution,’ says the chair of the town’s homelessness charity.
More rough sleepers have appeared in town since the Rugby Winter Shelter closed at the end of March – and some are more prominent than ever, having taken shelter in the doorways of vacant town centre shops.
But the chair of Hope4, which runs the shelter, says supporting the charity is the best way to help them.
Diana Mansell said: “People sleeping rough in the town centre is a concern for everyone. Seeing someone sleeping in a shop doorway or begging is upsetting and challenging.
“But the best way to help Rugby’s homeless is to support charities and agencies like Hope4 that work tirelessly to address their complex needs.
“Offering money to someone begging can directly assist the problem, as many homeless people struggle with addictions. Yes, offering a burger or hot drink can be wonderful and gratefully received – but it could be the tenth burger of the morning.”
The shelter faced huge demand last winter, providing beds and meals for 59 people across seven church venues.
And a recent report from charity Shelter revealed there were 224 homeless people recorded in the borough last year, more than double than in 2013.
But despite growing demand on Hope4, Diana said April had been a ‘very encouraging month’ for clients and staff alike – having worked with 62 clients and helped to house six of them, helped clients with Universal Credit issues and computer skills, and obtained a birth certificate for a young man who otherwise would not have been able to take up an offer of accommodation.
“Often it can be what would seem the simplest of things to many of us – a birth certificate – that is an immense hurdle to those already struggling with so much,” she said.
“I would strongly urge anyone wanting to help our homeless in Rugby to support Hope4 as it expands and develops its services and its work with other agencies.”
Rugby will receive £56,341 from the Government over the next three years to combat homelessness.
But it was described as a ‘drop in the ocean’ by members of Rugby Borough Council’s Homelessness Scrutiny Sub-Group.
Coun Claire Edwards said: “Hope4 did a fantastic job over the winter, but they can’t run 52 weeks of the year. One-off funding is always welcome but it is the sustainable funding of supported housing that is missing.
“Sadly lack of supported services means more people living in chaotic lives because they can’t sustain a tenancy.
“Visible rough sleeping is just the tip of the iceberg and I am concerned about people who feel they have very few choices about where they live, and who have to accept situations that most of us would feel are unsafe.”
Fellow sub-group member Coun Jerry Roodhouse questioned what would happen when the funding stops.
He said: “Mental health, drugs, alcohol and other issues are leading to chaotic lifestyles which mean individuals fall foul of paying rent, then slip into being evicted.
“We need a stronger strategy which tackles budgeting, health and wellbeing, work, mentoring, and housing which helps and supports chaotic lifestyles.”
Visit www.hope4.org.uk to donate to or volunteer with Hope4.