Begging, sitting on the floor within 5m of ATMs or shops, and legal highs have all been banned in Stockport town centre under a new legal order.
Police and the borough’s council have secured the protection order after months of trouble.
However, there are now fears that the move targets homeless people.
Jonathan Billings from The Wellspring disagrees: “I don’t think it’s particularly aimed at homeless people. We work very closely with the town centre police, who are very, very good and work alongside them most days of the week – and they help us identify anyone who’s sleeping rough and we work back with them with any issues they have with people.
“The majority of people who are begging are people with addictions, so they’re not people who are homeless.
“The vast majority of people in Stockport town centre have got accommodation, they’ve got benefit claims, and they’re people with addictions who are looking for money to fund that addiction.
“What we do think will happen, though, is that it will push people to other areas of Stockport that aren’t covered by the order.
“We expect to see a rise in people begging in places like Poynton, Bramhall Village, Heaton Moor, and Edgeley – places like the smaller town centres.”
It’s understood 120 people unanimously voted in favour of the idea in an online consultation.
Jonathan thinks more could have been done by the authorities to work with organisations like The Wellspring: “I think they could have gone about it a bit better – I think there could have been more consultation with local services.
“I think it is a little bit heavy-handed; we remain to see the full effects of the order and how it will come into play.
“I walked through the town centre yesterday and there are numerous places within the town centre that not five metres from a shop or an ATM. There are a few little holes in it [the protection order] that perhaps people may exploit.”
However, Jonathan thinks there are good intentions behind the plan: “It’s something that we kind of support at The Wellspring. We’ve been running a campaign called ‘Don’t Feed The Habit’, because we find the majority of people sitting in the street begging in the town centre are people with addictions.
“By people giving them money, they’re just fanning the flames of addiction and keeping people trapped in that cycle.”
Jonathan also advised stopping and chatting with those who are begging and trying to help them change their situation by telling them about services they can access.
People should be given the opportunity to engage with support services as much as possible. just moving people on will do nothing to support people it just displaces the problem.