Asking for change

Calling for a more effective response to begging in Victoria

It is still a crime to beg in Victoria. In the last five years, over 800 charges have been laid against people for begging. We’re asking for change.

We all want to reduce the number of people begging in Victoria. However, as a community, we continue to rely on the police and courts to tackle what is ultimately an issue of homelessness and poverty.

Over the past 15 years, evidence and research has consistently shown that people who beg experience high levels of hardship, including homelessness, mental illness, substance dependence, family violence, trauma and poverty.

From 2014-16, Justice Connect’s Homeless Law team consulted with 30 people who beg or have begged.

For their stories, insights and perspectives, watch this short video.

Through using the justice system to respond to begging, we:

  1. Impose a significant burden on police and the courts
  2. Cause highly vulnerable people to be caught up in the justice system as a result of homelessness and poverty
  3. Fail to reduce the number of people who beg

Informed by the evidence, consumer perspectives and direct work with people who have begged, organisations are calling for a more effective response to begging in Victoria.

The joint Position Paper sets out seven steps that – if embraced by specialist homelessness and health services, Victoria Police, local councils, local businesses and the Victorian Government – will help Victoria move towards a fairer, more sensible and more effective approach to begging and the acute hardship that underpins it.

Victoria can do better than an old fashioned law and a dated response to homelessness and poverty.

Let’s genuinely address the underlying causes of begging: poverty and homelessness.

Let’s strengthen what works: long-term housing and access to services.

It’s time for change.

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