24 August 2017
Nottingham Green Party is disappointed in Councillor Toby Neal’s comments published in the Nottingham Post on 20th August. We call on the Labour run council to break with its habit of demonisation and treating beggars as a nuisance - an attitude that was seen most clearly with their infamous anti-begging posters last year.
Instead, they should pursue a kinder, gentler politics, that attacks the social problems behind begging rather than those who are forced to do it. The criminalisation of poverty should end and be replaced with properly funded support services. We don't believe that any significant numbers of people "choose" to beg - reasons include poverty, mental health issues, drug problems, homelessness, and for many, all those issues.
The Green Party supports the Housing First model of dealing with homelessness. Housing First means providing secure, long term housing to the homeless first, and then support for underlying problems. Currently the homeless live precariously between hostels and the street. This compounds mental health issues and makes fighting addiction nearly impossible.
It's ridiculous that this needs to be said, but the best way to beat homelessness is to provide people with homes. The council should use all powers available to it to bring empty homes back into use. Planning powers should be used to stop the endless building of "luxury" student flats in the city centre, that most students can't afford, and instead focus on good quality social housing.
Drug use should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue. Health and social issues related to homelessness are best addressed using the Housing First model. The lack of evidence-based approaches is a failure of national governments of all colours. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are particularly to blame for austerity, cuts to services and benefit sanctions that have made poverty and mental health issues so much worse.
With the political will, and an alternative politics of care and compassion, the causes of begging can be attacked, not the people who do it.
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