Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police have launched a Rough Sleepers Task Force to bring key organisations together to address city centre rough sleeping.

The task force will tackle the increasing numbers of people genuinely sleeping rough in the city and the increasing numbers of people begging and involved in criminal behaviour through a three-pronged set of guiding principles – Educate, Engage and Enforce.  The task force will coordinate individual strategies on a case by case basis, building on the work of a triage team piloted last year.

The principles underlying this taskforce are to –

Educate – give advice to rough sleepers, explain what services are available to both rough sleepers and the public, encourage the public to donate money to charities

Engage – encourage people to accept support for their health, substance misuse and housing in order to come off the streets

Enforce – if people continually commit anti-social behaviour or criminal activity the task force will pursue with positive prohibitions to prevent them from being trapped in a cycle of homelessness and arrest

Birmingham City Council’s ambassador for rough sleeping, Cllr Sharon Thompson, said: “Birmingham is experiencing an increase in rough sleeping, begging and anti-social behaviour. We are also facing an unprecedented increase in drug use, particularly New Psychoactive Substances such as Mamba and Spice.  It is clear that no single agency can deal with the wide range of issues and needs that people have.

“The Rough Sleepers Task Force brings together the expertise that we need in a coordinated way, ensuring that we share information, quickly and efficiently, and work together to pull together programmes of support for people who need it.”

Birmingham Police Superintendent Andy Parsons, added: “On a daily basis my officers are speaking to the homeless community, giving them advice and directing them to support agencies who can help them off the street, access benefits and address issues like substance abuse.

“I’m confident this coordinated taskforce approach will help protect people who sleep rough in the city centre and get them the support they need.

“One of the key messages we’re reinforcing to rough sleepers is the dangers presented by synthetic drugs like Spice and Mamba. Our officers are finding some people still consider them as a low-risk drug substitute and are taking it without any consideration for their safety – but as we’ve seen recently, these are dangerous and can have fatal side effects.”