Bedfordshire Police and Bedford Borough Council carried out a joint operation last week to tackle begging and anti-social behaviour, and offer homeless people in town the support needed to stay safe and get back on their feet.
The ‘day of action’ led, by Bedfordshire Police’s North Community Policing Team targeted hot spot areas in town following complaints about anti-social behaviour.
Joining the police were Bedford Borough Council, Bedfordshire’s Homeless Partnership, and other outreach teams who were on hand to help make sure that support was available to anyone who needed it.
During the operation a number of homeless people were given details of support available at organisations such as SMART Prebend Day Centre and the Night Shelter, who provide beds during the cold weather.
They were also given information about the council’s Housing Options team and facilities, such as Clarence House and other supported accommodation.
Sam Price from the Bedfordshire Homeless Partnership was on hand during the day of action: “The approach towards rough sleepers is very much a multi-agency one, and support is always offered first and foremost via the outreach teams.
“With the additional 20 winter beds available through SMART CJS at the Salvation Army on Kennedy Road, there are more options for our rough sleepers than ever before; however sadly some individuals choose not to take up those options.
“The teams will continue to offer help and support to anyone sleeping rough in Bedford. But anyone is concerned about someone sleeping rough, please report it to StreetLink on 0300 500 0914 or go to www.streetlink.org.uk.”
Focusing on Bedford’s bus station, the High Street, Lurke Street car park and Riverside North, Bedford Borough Council cleared away a large amount of drug paraphernalia, food, human and general waste and old discarded bedding before cleaning and sanitising the areas.
Bedfordshire Police generated six intelligence reports relating to drugs and community issues after two people were reported by the council for a breach of a civil injunction.
PCSO Daniel James said that their main concern is responding to complaints and making sure anyone who needs it has access to support: “We spent a day in Bedford town centre patrolling the areas that have been flagged to us as problem areas by local business owners and members of the public.
“We were able to provide the homeless people who were staying in these areas with information of the services that are available to them, about the support they can receive and details of overnight shelters.”
But, he adds, there is no tolerance when people behave badly: “Anti-social behaviour is a huge concern for those who live and work in the area, so we work with the local council and partner organisations to address these issues and address the problem together.
“The public should feel safe going about their daily business without being asked for money. We don’t tolerate begging and the unrest it causes people.”
Meanwhile, Cllr Anthony Forth, Portfolio Holder for Adult Services and Operational Housing at Bedford Borough Council, said: “We were pleased to be able to support the police in the town centre on Friday, following complaints from the public and businesses about crime and anti-social behaviour.
“The council provides a range of services to support those at risk of homelessness and those rough sleeping in the borough. Outreach teams work closely with partner organisations and charities to visit people across the town to offer support and overnight shelter.
Bedford Borough Council currently support 38 beds every night for those sleeping rough with funding in place for 44 more units of accommodation.