Change for the better

The Loose Change 4 Real Change initiative in Bromley town centre encourages locals and visitors to give their spare change to a charity for the homeless, rather than directly to rough sleepers or beggars.

Faced with someone sleeping rough or begging on the streets, many of us are naturally inclined to reach into our pockets and hand over some loose change. However, homelessness charities have been warning for some time that this is not the best way to make your donation count.

Businesses in Bromley town centre are helping to address this issue by asking people to support a local homeless charity, rather than giving directly to beggars on the streets. The Loose Change 4 Real Change scheme makes it easy for shoppers, workers and tourists to drop some coins in a handy collection box, with all proceeds going to the Bromley Homeless Shelter.

Homeless people who end up begging on the streets are often the most vulnerable in society. That means there’s a danger that any money you give them could simply feed an addiction to alcohol or drugs, rather than helping them get a square meal or a bed for the night. In addition, there are people who may appear to be rough sleepers, but in reality, are professional beggars who prey on the good nature of passers-by. They may even be victims of human trafficking, forced into street begging by criminal gangs who exploit their vulnerability for profit.

“Loose Change 4 Real Change is not about punishing the homeless and rough sleepers in Bromley or devaluing their situation in any way,” said Frances Forrest, Your Bromley BID Manager, which is fully behind the initiative. “We want to encourage people to support those who are truly vulnerable and in need to help them rebuild their lives. However, we also want to clamp down on street begging, which rarely benefits those who are genuinely needy, and can be annoying and intimidating to many people who work in or visit our town centre.”

A big challenge

According to the Government’s Rough Sleeping Snapshot for autumn 2020, the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in England was 2868. This figure was significantly down on the previous year and in 2017, when the figure peaked at over 3,800. However, it’s likely that much of the decrease was due to emergency action taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown in November, and the 2020 figure was still 52% higher than the total in 2010. Therefore, rough sleeping remains a major challenge for towns and cities across the country.

According to the survey, almost half of all people estimated to be sleeping rough in England on a single night in autumn were located in London and the South East. Most were male, aged over 26 years and from the UK.

Vital guidance and support

Run by Bromley Churches, Bromley Homeless Shelter provides year-round guidance and support to homeless people, or those at risk of homelessness. This includes a twice-weekly advice clinic at the United Reformed Church in Widmore Road, Bromley.

From November to March, the charity also runs two-night shelters for homeless people in Bromley Borough, one in central Bromley and one in the north of the Borough. These shelters provide vital food and accommodation during the winter months, when rough sleeping on the freezing streets can not only be challenging, but also life threatening.

Loose Change 4 Real Change – how it works

Donation boxes for the Loose Change 4 Real Change scheme are conveniently located in several businesses and shops in Bromley town centre. These include: Slaters Menswear, Dreams, Copy Print, Lakeland and Central Library.

To make a donation, simply pop into one of these locations and drop your cash in the box. By doing so, you can be sure your money will be used to help make a real difference to the lives of homeless people and rough sleepers.

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