‘Your Kindness Could Kill’ campaign launched in Oxford

Oxford City Council has announced that it intends to re-launch its anti-begging campaign, ‘Your Kindness Could Kill’, aimed at discouraging students and tourists from giving money to street-beggars in the city centre.

The initiative was first launched back in July 2012, using street art, leaflets and posters to draw attention to the harm potential do-gooders might be inflicting by giving money to the homeless on the streets of Oxford.

Councillors have now confirmed that the campaign will be returning again for 2013, beginning in August and continuing until around Christmas. Stalls with representatives from Your Kindness Could Kill will also be appearing at freshers’ fairs at Oxford Brookes and the University of Oxford.

The campaign itself aims to remind students, tourists and members of the public that the money they give to beggars is often used to buy alcohol or drugs, which only compounds the issue of homelessness and in serious cases can even result in injury and death. Oxford City Council also said that is more helpful for members of the public to give their donations to charities, rather than directly to the homeless.

Councillor Scott Seamons, board member for housing at Oxford City Council said, “Our research has suggested that the campaign was successful in getting its message across to the local permanent resident population of Oxford but wasn’t as noted by students and tourists. In this re-launch we will be looking to specifically target our message at those groups.”

Several high profile charities and public institutions have lent their support to the initiative, including Broadway, Oxford Homeless Pathways and The Big Issue. Joe Batty, Outreach Services Manager for Broadway said, “Begging in and around Oxford is rife, it is built on misplaced goodwill of students and tourists.

“It is Broadway’s opinion that begging fuels serious substance misuse issues and has little to do with homelessness. Begging is not a benign activity, it decimates the lives of those involved, fuels a drug trade and ruins Oxford’s international reputation.”

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Begging is a criminal offence in the UK under the provisions of the Vagrancy Act 1824, although actual prosecutions are rare. Since the campaign was originally unveiled last year, Thames Valley Police revealed that 43 people have been arrested for begging and related offences. A spot check performed by Oxford City Council in June of this year also recorded 19 individuals who were begging in the city centre and Cowley Road area.

For students, the issue of homelessness continues to be both emotive and divisive. Danny Johnson, a Keble physicist said, “I think this initiative sounds like a good idea; it’s a very uncomfortable situation when you know you shouldn’t give money but somehow feel like it’s the right thing to do.”

One Hertford third-year, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I feel ashamed when I see tourists who come to Oxford having to walk past beggars and homeless people on the streets. What sort of impression does this give of our city and our society as a whole? It’s no secret why there are so many beggars in Oxford: they simply follow the money. And until you cut off that cash supply then they’ll simply keep coming back. I applaud the fact that this campaign seeks to go directly to the root of the problem.”