A row has broken out about how best to deal with the homeless and rough sleepers in Basingstoke.
Top of Town Association chairman Alan Stone would like to see persistent street sleepers moved on, while Cllr Gavin James has insisted the solution is not as easy as that.
“We’ve got in place an awful lot of schemes for people who need help,” said Mr Stone.
“It’s fine having these schemes in place and I entirely agree with them, but we’ve got a persistent group.
“The police reckon there are about 20 that do not want help and they need to be moved on or forced to take help.
“It lowers the tone of the town and we need to discourage that form of lifestyle in the town centre by moving them on.”
He said they needed to be moved on as they were blocking doorways of businesses.
Mr Stone continued: “It doesn’t really matter where to, as long as they are passed into the hands of somebody who will do something about them.”
The antiques dealer believes that those who do need help and want help should receive it – what he is unhappy with are those that don’t want the support.
The Top of Town Association has signed a petition about the issue that has several hundred signatures and that will be presented at the Social Inclusion Partnership meeting this evening.
The group brings together many organisations, services and businesses to find a way forward to deal with the issue of street sleepers.
However Cllr Gavin James, a borough councillor for Eastrop – the ward the town centre sits in – said it was a multi-faceted issue.
“In fairness to the borough council and the officers they are doing a lot of work,” he said.
“We’ve got an outreach team that tries to meet the homeless and try and find out why they’re homeless, how they ended up in that situation and how they can help.”
Cllr James said he supported campaigns to give practical help rather than giving money directly to those on the streets and also the help of the Top of Town traders is needed to stop serving alcohol to the homeless.
He also said people need to be stopped from ending up in that situation and anti-social behaviour orders were not the answer because they forced rough sleepers onto surrounding residential streets.
“I’d much rather have them in an area where there is surveillance and enforcement officers checking on their behaviour”, he said.
“There’s no simple solution because we’re dealing with individuals and individual problems.
“These are very damaged people, and they’re often not very compliant.
“It’s not an easy problem and there’s not magical solution and anyone who tells you there is, is talking nonsense.”
Cllr Terri Reid, deputy leader of the borough council, said that community safety patrol officers work with the police to combat anti social behaviour and the Social Inclusion Partnership is working hard and making a real difference to support those affected by homelessness and rough sleepers.
If you are concerned about someone who is sleeping on the streets, please contact Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 or visit streetlink.org.uk.