Giving a few pounds to the people you see on the streets of our towns and cities can seem like one way to show you care and to help them, at least for that day. However, a recent initiative started by the North Devon and Torridge Community Safety Partnership – a multi-agency group that includes Local Authorities, the Police, Fire and Rescue services and the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company – is asking people to help create real change in the lives of homeless people rather than giving their spare change to people they see on our streets.

As with other initiatives instigated by this group, Freedom is working with and supporting the partnership as it aims to create real change in the lives of vulnerable and rough-sleeping individuals through this approach.

Making A Real Difference

The Spare Change or Real Change initiative seeks to educate the public on how we can really make a change to the homeless people we see. Often the money given to rough sleepers and beggars can work counter to the giver’s intentions. In some cases, the spare change collected can be used to fund some of the underlying issues that cause a person’s homelessness and even make it worse.

The number of people who are homeless or rough-sleeping in the UK rose by around 4% last year showing a continued rise since 2010. In North Devon, there are a number of different agencies working hard to address the issues of homelessness. One of the ways in which this is being done is by building relationships with rough sleepers, helping them to address any underlying issues which may be stopping them from securing or keeping a roof over their heads with individualised support and sharing information with local charities, police and other agencies so they can gain an understanding of each individual’s background and needs.

Initiatives such as our Day Centre, the Housing Hub and the Safe Sleep project run with North Devon Council, all provide avenues for homeless people to address their situation and for meaningful change to be instigated. By working closely with other agencies such as North Devon Council, Devon and Cornwall Police and other charities in the area, a better understanding of an individual’s circumstances can be gained; with this understanding and by working in partnership, the best interventions for an individual can be prepared. This approach takes both time and money but has been found to give each person the best chance of turning their lives around, moving into permanent accommodation and building positive future prospects.

Showing You Care

Spare Change or Real Change doesn’t seek to stop people from showing individuals on the streets that they care, as Superintendent Toby Davies expressed, “This is not about stopping anyone from chatting to someone on the street who you feel would welcome that conversation, or getting someone a cup of tea; but if you want to meaningfully assist a rough sleeper, help us to offer them real change, not your spare change.”

In order to help create real change for the homeless population in North Devon, people are being asked to support charities with regular donations or by volunteering their time. Just a few pounds each month can make a difference to the services that organisations such as ours are able to offer the vulnerable people within our communities and enable us to plan for the future with interventions that not only answer the current issue of homelessness but also help to prevent it from happening in the first place.

As our Housing Manager, Phill Noal says, “Breaking the cycle of street homelessness is best achieved through a multi-agency approach and this is something we are committed to. We fully support the Spare Change or Real Change initiative as we believe it has the potential to reduce street begging and much of the anti-social behaviour that accompanies this activity. It’s easy to assume that there is a lack of support services to assist rough sleepers when we see people begging on the high street but this simply isn’t the case and sadly in our experience giving people money often prolongs their street homelessness.”

You can help us create real change here.