This Anti-Poverty Week 2016, an alliance of welfare organisations is calling for the decriminalisation of begging through the launch of the Asking for Change campaign. The Council to Homeless Persons is amongs the seven organisations supporting the campaign.
It is still a crime to beg in Victoria. In the last five years, over 800 charges have been laid against people for begging. We all want to reduce the number of people begging in Victoria. However, as a community, there is a continued reliance on the police and courts to tackle what is ultimately an issue of homelessness and poverty.
Evidence and research over a 15 year period has consistently shown that people who beg experience high levels of hardship, including homelessness, mental illness, substance dependence, family violence, trauma and poverty.
In the last two years, Justice Connect Homeless Law, the organisation spearheading the campaign, has consulted with 30 people who beg or have begged.
For their stories, insights and perspectives, watch this short video.
Through using the justice system to respond to begging, we impose a significant burden on police and the courts, cause highly vulnerable people to be caught up in the justice system as a result of homelessness and poverty and fail to reduce the number of people who beg.
Informed by the evidence, consumer perspectives and direct work with people who have begged, seven leading organisations have released a Position Paper which sets out seven steps which – if embraced by specialist homelessness and health services, Victoria Police, local councils, local businesses and the Victorian Government – will help Victoria move towards a fairer, more sensible and more effective approach to begging and the acute hardship that underpins it.