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Saturday, 29 October 2016

Rough sleepers, beggars and street drinkers


City centre issues involving rough sleepers, beggars and street drinkers have worsened over the last year. Key issues have included the leisure centre camp, rough sleeping in Milson Street and more recently, Kingsmead Square. We have seen an increase in Anti-Social Behaviour and criminal offences. The police have taken some action to tackle these issues however everybody agrees that the solutions require us to go much wider than a policing activities.


In addressing this issue, it is important to be clear that not all or even most of the people involved are homeless it is also necessary to differentiate between people who are in distress and those who are merely criminal particularly in relation to aggressive begging. It is also important to recognise the fear that the behaviour of some of this community generate in vulnerable residents and visitors.

We have now attended two meetings with key agencies to discuss how to address the complex issues surrounding this community.

Partly as a result of these meeting police have been running operations making use of relatively new powers against anti-social behaviour and will run other operations including some aimed at addressing the problem of professional begging.

There is an ongoing programme of outreach work seeking to meet the accommodation problems of this community and the problems of untreated mental illness, addiction and substance abuse which often underpin them. This work has been consistently reducing rough sleeping in Bath against the general trend elsewhere. This work is designed to understand, engage with and challenge individuals.     

There are currently 25 rough sleepers in Bath, this has been consistent over last 3-4 months.

The multi-agency meetings we have been involved in have reviewed the work the Bristol Streetwise Project. This is a joint project between Bristol City Council and the Police Anti-social Behaviour Team and it is their full-time role to engage with individuals, guiding them towards the appropriate pathways.

In Bath the intention is to create our own version of Streetwise, using monthly multi-agency Task & Targeting meetings and grading problematic individuals by their impact on residents and businesses. Agencies will refer individuals to the meeting were their case can be discussed with the group members and actions agreed. This process will coordinate urgent action to prevent further nuisance from the highest risk individuals and look at longer term preventative and early intervention work for the rest.

We have welcomed this initiative but would like BANEs to look at appointing someone to hold overall responsibility for this process and highlight what is working well and what needs to change.

We were concerned to learn that the Police and Crime Commissioner has revealed a potential reduction in the community safety grant.

 We believe there is also a need to reinvigorate the Kindness can Kill campaign to stop well intentioned tourists from fuelling the problem by giving money to individuals who will often use the money to feed their adictions.


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