Highly visible, but feeling invisible... Rough sleeping and begging I often hear people commenting on the state of rough sleeping in our cities and how it has gotten so much worse over the past year or 2. I also get asked a lot about begging and homelessness and the connection between the two. Hopefully we can shed a bit of light on the topic here today. Rough Sleeping Let’s firstly take a look at rough sleeping and if this is actually on the rise. I touched on this in my article on homelessness last month, and the statistics actually say that since 2009 we have been seeing a 45% decrease in those who are presenting homeless, having slept rough prior to presenting as homeless (Eradicating core homelessness report). However, between 2016 and 2017, we seen a 10% rise, which was the first increase since 2009. I think the main reason people are thinking it so much worse than it actually is, is due to the high number of people sleeping in shop doorways in the city centre. This is reportedly due to rough sleepers feeling so much safer sleeping out in the open rather than in alleyways, derelict buildings or anywhere that is out of public view. In Scotland, Glasgow has by far the biggest case of rough sleepers who slept rough before applying for homelessness, largely due to being Scotland’s largest city, but Dundee actually has the highest proportion at 8%, with Glasgow not far behind with 7%. The proportion of men to women, is around 80% men to 20% women, with the life expectancy of a rough sleeper being 43, pretty much half that of the general population. (Simon Community Scotland website). So according to recent statistics, rough sleeping has dropped dramatically, but has risen slightly over the past year or 2. Begging Probably the biggest questions we get asked around begging is around homelessness, addiction and whether to give them money or not. Lets begin with homelessness. In a recent report (2016) by Glasgow Homeless Network on begging, it was reported that rough sleeping was the most common accommodation status, with a lot of others still classed as ‘homeless’ being in hostels or other forms of temporary accommodation. There are a lot of ‘beggars’ who do have their own accommodation, and a high number of those begging seen this as their main source of income. Probably not surprising to most, was the main priorities for people who were begging was: 1. Drugs, 2. Food, 3. Alcohol, 4. Cigarettes & tobacco, 5. Housing costs. Personally, I would rather see people begging for money than resorting to crime to access the funds needed for their addictions, which was cited as the main thing they would need to resort to if they weren’t begging. However, it is worth noting that not everyone who is begging, has an addiction. Giving out money At Street Connect we have a policy for all staff and volunteers, that under no circumstances do we give out money. We would like to suggest that there are a number of fantastic charities who do great work amongst the homeless community, and this would be the best use of any money you wanted to give towards these issues. What else can you do? How many people do you think walk by, or shun, or even abuse those who are sleeping in doorways or begging in our city centres on a daily basis? Remember that they too are human beings, with feelings, who have reasons why they are where they are, and who are of immeasurable value in God’s sight too. Stopping to say hi, showing a bit courtesy, getting them something to eat or drink; pointing them towards somewhere that can help them long term, or even just offering a listening ear, as you could be the first real meaningful conversation that person has had that day. As the title of the article says, both rough sleepers and beggars are highly visible, but the amount of times we hear from those we connect with on the streets, that they feel like they are invisible to thousands of people walking past them day in day out. Don't let that be you... Finally, remember that everyone can change, given the right support and opportunities, which is often what these people are needing most.