New street begging shocks Harrogate shops
Frustrated shop owners in Harrogate town centre say more must be done after they were confronted today by the sight of beggars sleeping in their doorway and lying in the middle of the street in broad daylight.
Robert Kennedy-Bruyneels, of G23 & Porters on Cambridge Road and Oxford Street, said: "Someone was lying in the doorway of G23 this morning, obstructing my staff from being able to open the door and leaving them with no choice but to call the police so we could open the shop for the day."
The shop owner also says neon paint was sprayed on his business's fire door, which will have to have repainted.As a local rate and tax payer, he says local authorities need to do more to justify the money they are receiving.
Robert said: "We pay just short of £50, 000 per year in business rates plus another £1,500 to the Harrogate BID. "However, looking around the area of G23 and McDonald's, I can not see a penny being spent on improving things for either us as a retailer or for the public when visiting Harrogate. "The most common thing we hear visitors to Harrogate saying is, "It's very run down, not what we thought it would be like."
Although a multi-agency new initiative to tackle street begging and rough sleeping in Harrogate is on its way, a new pressure group set up by more than 100 Harrogate independent traders is also concerned.
Nicholas Richardson of Independent Harrogate said they would be raising the issue in a meeting with Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones.
But the leader of Harrogate Borough Council. Coun Richard Cooper said the numbers of street beggars and rough sleepers in Harrogate town centre had declined in recent weeks after initial efforts by authorities including the police.
Coun Cooper said: "Working together, the Homeless Project, North Yorkshire Horizons, the police, local councils, the BID and the media have already had a positive effect on street begging."It is greatly reduced from its peak at the beginning of the summer. "As evidence shows, the vast majority of the people we see in the town centre do have homes. "Those who do not have refused the offer of a home - often multiple times - or have been evicted recently often for issues like drug misuse, assault and vandalism."But we need to work even harder to understand the reasons why people feel that street begging and sleeping rough is their only option. "I do not judge those whose circumstances, addictions and health problems lead them to shop doorways to sleep or pavements to beg. "What we should try to do is help and support them on their journey away from the problems they have to a stable lifestyle, sleeping in their home in a safe environment with the support they need."
As part of this new strategy, Coun Cooper said the launch of Harrogate Street Aid where the public give money to a payment terminal rather than the beggars themselves would also help improve things.
Coun Cooper said: "Harrogate Street Aid will ensure that any donations to support street beggars go direct to those support agencies that can help with mental and physical health issues, drug and alcohol additions and family counselling."The advice remains from all those agencies like Harrogate Homeless Project - giving direct to street beggars can fuel the problems they face; not help them beat those problems. "Once we have successfully identified a store to pilot the first Street Aid terminal for people to donate to, we will get it installed as soon as possible. "Hopefully, it will be the first of many terminals providing the funds for additional health and addiction support to people in need. "Donating to organisations like North Yorkshire Horizons and Harrogate Homeless Project can turn loose change into real change."