good for bristol

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Begging in Bristol

The Post has published not one but two articles in the last few days reporting homeless charities urging people not to give money to beggars.  As one of the 80 homeless people cited in the article I'm in two minds about this.

The articles are and

I wouldn't like to guess how many people are actually sleeping out each night in Bristol.  Lots are hidden away - like me - and go unnoticed.  As my bender is in Leigh Woods at the moment I guess if I was counted I'd be in North Somerset anyway.

And of course rough sleeping is the tip of the iceberg, there's people stacked up in the hostels, squatting, crammed three deep in rubbish private rented and countless others sofa-surfing.

Donnard - who gets quoted in the article - wouldn't be sleeping rough if the police hadn't illegally evicted us from Broadmead.  He rarely begs, only when he really needs money for something.  Like me he doesn't sign on, doesn't drink barely anything and isn't into drugs.  We both live on virtually no money at all, which is very hard.

I've seen few beggars in Bristol recently, and none of them seem to go to the Goose, nightshelter or the soup run so I'd query to what extent they're homeless.  Most homeless people I've met either don't beg or beg very little when they really need it.  Additionally there's a lot less drinking and drugging going on in the homeless scene than my first time around back in the 1990s.  I think a lot of it then was related to people with severe mental health problems being moved out into the community and not coping.  Now the services for them are much better.

Back in the early 1990s the crusties in the Bear Pit were a force to be reckoned with and the city centre was full of beggars, almost all smackheads.  Then I'd have said don't give money to beggars as every penny would go straight to the dealers.  Now things have changed, increasingly people are simply not getting any benefits and have no money at all.

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