ORGANISATIONS have vowed to unite to fight the ‘complex issues’ creating begging, homelessness and rough sleeping in Stratford.
A recent meeting, hosted by Stratford District Council, agreed support was needed from a range of services including accommodation providers Housing First and Coventry Cyrenians, as well as addiction support from ‘Change, Grow, Live’, outreach teams and the
Waterside-based Stratford Link project, which offers support services to rough sleepers.
The meeting also focused on so-called ‘county lines’ drug crime, where city drug gangs target drug users in smaller towns such as Stratford.
A number of recent raids across the county by Warwickshire Police have highlighted the threat of the gangs, with the seizure of thousands of pounds in cash, large quantities of drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Weapons such as machetes and a Samurai sword were also recovered.
Following an exclusive report on county lines, the Observer was contacted by a recovering Stratford drug addict who said the situation was getting worse and the majority of beggars were doing so to pay drug gangs ‘flooding’ the town.
District council leader Tony Jefferson said a balance needed to be struck between providing help and tackling drug-related issues. He added: “Sadly the issue of begging is complex and sometimes linked with homelessness, but in most cases interlinked with drugs.
“The sad reality is that much, if not most, of the money given to beggars finds its way into the drugs trade. It is important that people realise this when they give money to beggars.
“This multi-agency briefing helped key partners have a deeper understanding of the issues facing Stratford. Having this insight will also help us all in the future support our local communities and make better informed decisions.
“It is important that the council works with partner agencies and communities to ensure there is effective support in place for vulnerable people to enable them to have control over their lives, be safe and protected from harm.”
The meeting follows the recent death
of a rough sleeper in Stratford. It is currently being investigated by police and the cause of death has not yet been reported.
The person was understood to have been supported by the Stratford Link project which is hosting a small celebration of their life.
Search Stratford Link project on Facebook for more information and on donating to the centre.