Horn, Cooke - 2001 - A Question of Begging a Study of the Extent and Nature of Begging in the City of Melbourne

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  • 7/27/2019 Horn, Cooke - 2001 - A Question of Begging a Study of the Extent and Nature of Begging in the City of Melbourne


    A Question Of Begging

    A study of the extent and nature of begging

    in the City of Melbourne

    Michael Horn & Michelle Cooke

    June 2001

  • 7/27/2019 Horn, Cooke - 2001 - A Question of Begging a Study of the Extent and Nature of Begging in the City of Melbourne


    A Question Of Begging

    A study of the extent and nature of beggingin the City of Melbourne

    Michael Horn and Michelle CookeHanover Welfare Services, MelbournePO Box 1016, South Melbourne, Victoria, 3205

    Telephone: (03) 9699 388Email: [email protected]

    Copyright 2001

    The material contained in this publication is subject to Australian Copyright laws.Individuals or organisations who wish to reproduce any of the material in thispublication may do so only with the expressed permission of Hanover Welfare

    Services, Melbourne.

    ISBN 0 9588815 5 3

    mailto:[email protected]:[email protected]
  • 7/27/2019 Horn, Cooke - 2001 - A Question of Begging a Study of the Extent and Nature of Begging in the City of Melbourne



    This study was conducted in order to investigate the extent and nature of begging

    within Melbournes central business district, as well as examine the issues that oftenaccompany begging behaviours.

    The authors gratefully acknowledge the significant contributions of the MelbourneCity Council, the Victoria Police Force, and Outreach and Support staff from Hanover

    Welfare Services. In particular, Hanover is grateful for the financial contributionmade by Melbourne City Council towards the cost of the study.

    We would specifically like to thank:

    Working Party

    Clare Malone, Senior Project Officer - City Safety, City of MelbourneSuperintendent Tony Warren of Region 1 G.P.D, Victoria PoliceGeorge Giuliani, Manager - Hanover Inner NorthChris Middendorp, Hanover OutreachMelita Powell, Hanover OutreachMichael Horn, Manager Hanover Research and Development

    Research Assistance

    Liz Zdravski, Support Worker Hanover Inner NorthPaul Malavisi, Support Worker Hanover Inner NorthLeanne Mortellaro, Support Worker Hanover Young Adults

    Amanda Tischmann, Support Worker Hanover Family ServicesJulia Gyomber, Support Worker Hanover Womens ServiceMary Drossos, Support Worker Hanover Housing ServiceFelicity Robin, Support Worker Hanover Dandenong

    Finally, our thanks go to Mary Pearce, Tony Nicholson, Marg Gwynne and Lesley

    McLaverty at Hanover for their assistance in finalising the report.

    MelbourneJune 2001

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    2. OVERVIEW 1

    3. BACKGROUND3.1 State legislation and its treatment of begging 23.2 Past and current Council initiatives relating

    to begging in the CBD 33.3 Past and current Police responses to begging in the CBD 43.4 International and local research into begging 53.5 Analysis of media relating to begging within the CBD 73.6 The current research 8


    4.1 Begging Categories 94.2 Stage 1 Outreach case histories 104.3 Stage 2 Police enumeration 104.4 Stage 3 Trader and public referrals 114.5 Stage 4 City enumeration 124.6 Study limitations 12

    5. RESULTS 14

    5.1 Stage 1 Outreach case histories 145.2 Stage 2 Police enumeration 165.3 Stage 3 Trader and public referrals 175.4 Stage 4 City enumeration 17

    6. DISCUSSION 19

    6.1 What is the extent of begging within the CBD? 196.2 What is the nature of begging within the CBD? 196.3 What are the housing circumstances of those begging? 20

    6.4 To what extent is begging driven by desperation? 216.5 What are the reported pathways to, and reasons for, engaging

    in begging behaviours? 216.6 To what extent does the perception of begging in the CBD

    approximate the actual extent of the issue? 22

    7. CONCLUSION 24




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    1. IntroductionAnyone who has visited US cities, such as Washington or Los Angeles, would be shocked at

    the level of begging evident in the city streets. At the start of the 21


    century, it is a strikingparadox to see such high levels of poverty within a country often considered an exemplar ofthe success of post-industrial capitalist economies. Over recent years, the contrast betweenaffluence and poverty on the streets of Melbournes CBD has become a matter of publicconcern and comment.

    Hanover has operated an Outreach Service within Melbournes inner suburbs for over 15years. Throughout this period Hanovers experience has been that the extent of begging inthe CBD has been low, and the majority of those who beg do so on an intermittent andspontaneous basis to pay for their immediate needs.

    However this is not the understanding that has generally been portrayed in the media overrecent years, with reports focusing on begging in the CBD as a cause of concern to bothtraders and the public. The reports in the media have relied upon anecdotal evidence.

    As a leading agency working with those experiencing homelessness in Melbourne, Hanoverwas keen to obtain an objective assessment of the extent and nature of begging. Followinginitial developmental work on a research project, discussions took place with the City ofMelbourne and the Victoria Police on the research methodology. At the same time, the Cityof Melbourne was developing a comprehensive strategy to respond to local community callsfor action to reduce the level of begging in the City.

    The outcome of these discussions was an agreement to work collaboratively on a research

    study that would provide greater understanding of the issue of begging in Melbourne inorder to inform future policy initiatives.

    2. Overview

    The following report details the action research project that investigated the issue of beggingwithin Melbournes central business district (CBD).

    The research study was carried out over the period of September 2000 to February 2001.

    Data was collected by way of a collaboration between the Melbourne City Council (MCC), theVictoria Police Force (VPF), and Outreach staff from Hanover Welfare Services.

    In addition to detailing the research background, project methodology, and findings, thisreport presents the relevant state legislation and regulatory control relating to begging. Alsocontained within the report is a description of the past and current initiatives undertaken bythe MCC and the VPF to address the issue of begging in the CBD.

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    It was expected that the research would:

    Improve understanding of the extent and characteristics of begging inMelbournes CBD.

    Enhance the role of the Hanover Outreach team in working with those whobeg and are homeless.

    Allow policy recommendations to be made by the City of Melbourne andHanover Welfare Services and the Victorian Police.

    It should be noted that all results are presented in aggregate in order to avoid theidentification of individual study participants.

    3. Background

    Begging may be defined as the act of asking for alms or charity, where alms refers to reliefgiven out of pity to the poor (Macdonald, 1972). This issue may further be defined accordingto its place within state legislation and therefore, Council strategy.

    3.1 State legislation and its treatment of beggingThe criminal nature of begging is stipulated under Section 7 of the Vagrancy Act(1966) whereby:

    Any person who -

    a) solicits gathers or collects alms subscriptions or contributions underfalse pretence;

    b) imposes or endeavours to impose upon any person or charitableinstitution by a false or fraudulent representation either verbally or inwriting with a view to obtaining money or any other benefit oradvantage. is guilty of an offence under this Act.

    If charged with contravening this Act, the individual attends a hearing at theMagistrates Court. It has been found that in general for a first offence the individualmay be required to pay a $50 fine, for a second offence up to $100, and for a thirdoffence up to $300. If the individual is found to have been begging in an aggressive

    manner, the penalties are usually more serious as this behaviour also contravenesthe Crimes Act (1958), Division 1 - Crimes against the person.

    Busking is not considered an offence when it occurs in the public places stipulatedunder the Vagrancy Act (1966), though it is considered an offence if it occurs on anyrail or road vehicle or any rail premises. This is stated under Section 325 of theTransport (Passengers and Rail Freight) Regulations.

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    3.2 Past and current Council initiatives relating to begging in the CBD

    Begging was first raised as an issue of concern by the community in 1996. This wasaccompanied by extensive media coverage of the increasing numbers of people whobeg on our city streets. In response, the City of Melbourne developed the City Support

    Card as a resource to assist people in need of personal or material support. Later in1996, Council developed its first policy documentA Strategy for a Safe City 1996-1999which identified begging as an issue of concern and incorporated distributionof the City Support Card as an action to address the issue.

    In 1999, Council commenced a review of this policy document throughcomprehensive community consultation and in July 2000 launchedA Strategy for aSafe City 2000-2002. Begging was again identified as an issue of concern and thefollowing actions were incorporated to address the issue:

    Undertake research to examine the issues associated with beggingand potential approaches to address these issues; and

    Implement appropriate strategies.In July 1999 the City of Melbourne commenced research into the issue of beggingand prepared an Issues Paper. It provides a summary of relevant Council policies,outlines the regulatory controls to which begging is subject, describes the initiativescurrently being implemented by Council to address begging in the city, detailsinitiatives that other cities have adopted and discusses the findings of existingresearch. The paper proposed a number of initiatives including the development of acomprehensive education campaign to increase public understanding of the issuesassociated with begging, the services available to those in need and to encourage

    confidence in responding to begging requests.

    In October 2000 Councils City Business Committee considered a report on Councilsrole in managing and responding to the issue of begging. The report highlighted thatthe role of Council is to manage the impact of people who beg on the generalpublic. This involves providing practical short term responses includingunderstanding and monitoring the issue and providing a street presence, supportingenforcement, providing education and advocating for appropriate welfare and socialservices. Initiatives currently being undertaken to achieve this include:

    Safe City Neighbourhood Officers monitoring the issue; Provision of a street presence through the Ambassador Program; Helping Out Booklet; Provision of $40,800 to fund the outreach trial discussed in this report; Participation in and contribution of funding to this research initiative,


    Investigating the most effective way to increase public understandingand encourage community confidence in responding to beggingrequests.

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    3.3 Past and current Police responses to begging in the CBD

    Over the years there have been a number of special operations looking at streetbegging within Melbournes CBD. Most of these special operations, as well as themajority of foot patrols, have been carried out by City Patrol Group (CPG) police.

    The main operation called Operation Beggar was initiated during 1995. Thisoperation has involved both plain clothed and uniformed members targeting themain begging problem areas that were identified as a result of trader and residentreports or police observation.

    There have also been special initiatives addressing begging in conjunction withother offences such as street robberies and thefts from Telstra telephone equipmentand vending machines (Operation Majore), and street crime including drug dealing(Operation Leader).

    The number of charges laid by police for the Beg Alms offence have varied greatlyover the past three years. These figures can be broken down according to chargeslaid per month. (Table 1.)

    Table 1:Monthly totals for Beg Alms offence

    1998 1999 2000

    January 10 53 18

    February 13 27 14

    March 5 13 18

    April 0 16 11May 4 18 19

    June 3 26 12

    July 2 22 15

    August 7 13 20

    September 17 23 17

    October 14 15 55

    November 15 27 51

    December 17 21 43

    Annual total 107 274 293

    Average per month 9 23 24Source: Victoria Police Crime Statistics

    This data suggests significant variance in monthly charges for this offence over the 3years, ranging from 0 (April 1998) to 55 (October 2000). The low numbers during theperiod April to August 1998 may be associated with a lack of police resources on thestreet at that time. Similarly, the high numbers over the last quarter of 2000 may belinked to the specific policy pressure through Operation Leader.

    On average, 19 charges per month for begging have been laid over this period, thatis, less than 1 charge each day. Even in the period of targeted presence on the

    street, fewer than 2 charges per day were laid.

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    An analysis of the outcomes of charges laid for this offence has been conducted forthose people charged by City Patrol Group members during the period January toJune 2000. Nine of the 35 people charged were repeat offenders. The outcomes forthe 35 charges are summarised as follows:

    3 charges dismissed/trivial nature 18 first offence: convicted and fined $50 4 second offence: convicted and fined $75 or $100 5 third to fifth offence: convicted and fined $150 to $300 2 convicted and discharged 3 convicted and placed on 12 month CBO

    In the majority of cases (56%) in the above sample period, it was their first offence.The data also indicates that the majority of those charged are being convicted andfined by the court.

    When analysing crime statistics it is important to consider a range of possiblelimitations. These include:

    1. Police numbers and special police operations will result in fluctuationsin the level of reported crime. For example, a police operation focussingon drug activities will obviously result in a higher rate of reported crimeof this type.

    2. Not all crimes committed are reported to police and the police crimestatistics only include those crimes that have been reported.

    3. The level of reporting varies significantly depending upon the type ofcrime.

    However despite the variations the figures shown in Table 1 suggest that fewer thanone individual has been charged per day.

    The Central Business District Police and Community Consultative Committee (PCCC)have also shown an interest in begging over the years and were largely responsiblefor the production of the City Support Card. The Support Card was intended to directpeople who beg to appropriate welfare services within the city.

    Currently, Operation Leader is the major effort responsible for the identification ofstreet crime issues within the CBD including begging, however, this initiative largely

    targets street robbery and drug dealing before focusing its attentions of begging.

    3.4 International and local research into begging

    A literature search on the issue of begging found that very little robust research hasbeen conducted in Australia. However one study, commissioned by the City ofMelbourne, was undertaken by RMIT in 1998 to investigate the incidence ofhomelessness and disadvantaged people within the CBD. It also investigated thewelfare and housing services available at that time (Driscoll & Wood, 1998).

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    The research found that:

    A complex relationship existed between poverty, begging, drug useand homelessness within the CBD.

    Many homeless and poverty stricken individuals used begging as ameans through which they could supplement their income.

    The number of people sleeping rough in the CBD every night wasestimated at between 56 and 120, and the number of people withincrisis accommodation exceeded 490.

    96% of the homeless people surveyed used welfare benefits as theirprimary source of income.

    Less than 2% of the homeless people surveyed used begging andcrime as their sole source of income.

    12.6% of homeless respondents stated that they received welfarebenefits but supplemented this income with money received throughbegging or other criminal activity.

    The report recommended that the City of Melbourne advocate in conjunction withwelfare agencies for additional health and housing funding, as well as improvedincome support for the homeless and disadvantaged.

    The following summarises the key findings of research on begging carried outinternationally:

    One study carried out in the United Kingdom, Kemp (1997) found that:

    Begging is one outcome of a range of previous life experiences thathave resulted in social exclusion and isolation.

    A substantial proportion of those begging have an alcohol and/ordrug dependence.

    In one London Borough, one third of those begging did not haveaccommodation of any kind.

    Begging is a last resort activity for many people a more acceptableoption to providing for basic needs than resorting to other criminal

    activities such as shop lifting, burglary, drug dealing, andprostitution.

    Most of those who beg do so to meet their immediate basic needs. Most do not earn significant amounts from begging: one study

    found that the median income from begging was $50 per week(approximately 12 Big Mac meals).

    A National survey of single homeless people in 1991 found that21% of those sleeping rough (at least once in the previous week)had resorted to begging.

    Focus group discussion reported that begging was both demeaningand risky (theft and stand-over tactics).

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    Further reports from the UK state that media reports in the 1990s promoted beggingas an activity which earned bogus beggars more than respectable professions(Wardhaugh & Jones, 1999). Also that begging could be viewed as a street levelresource for the poor and powerless (Jordan, 1999).

    Research into begging has also been carried out in several cities of the United Statesfor example in Los Angeles (Taylor, 1999) and Washington D.C. (Weiner & Weaver,1974), as well as in other countries such as Serbia (Acton, 1996), Nigeria (Ojanuga,1990), Israel (Shichor & Ellis, 1981), Ireland (Gmelch & Gmelch, 1978), and Columbia(Gutierrez, 1970). These studies demonstrate that:

    Begging is most often associated with homelessness in bothindustrialised and developing nations.

    Individuals who beg often come from unstable familial backgrounds. Begging is often viewed as a more legal means of obtaining money

    than theft and prostitution.

    Those who beg often have low education and possess inadequateprofessional skills to survive in the modern economy.

    Drug issues, and both psychiatric and physical disability, are oftenassociated with begging behaviours.

    Begging is viewed as a humiliating yet necessary means of survivalfor those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

    Both the international and Victorian data highlight the complexity of issues

    surrounding begging. In general however, the results suggest that individuals whobeg are usually the most marginalised and isolated within society.

    3.5 Analysis of media relating to begging within the CBD

    Over recent years, many reports in the media have highlighted the belief thatbegging in the CBD has increased and that it is a cause of concern to both tradersand members of the public. An analysis of 36 print media stories between 1996 and2001 has indicated that coverage has focused on two aspects of begging: thattraders have become anxious that people who beg threaten the viability of theirbusinesses and that reported aggressive begging techniques were causing membersof the public to fear for their own safety. However none of the reports have beenbacked by any hard evidence, but have tended to rely on anecdotal evidence andpersonal perceptions or opinions.

    The extent to which media coverage has influenced public opinion on begging is notknown. However it is worth noting that, in April 2001, a survey commissioned by theCity of Melbourne and undertaken by Newton Wayman Chong, showed that, interms of reasons for feeling unsafe, begging now has less of an impact on traders,CBD residents and non CoM respondents than it did in 1999. Of the five mostfrequently mentioned reasons for feeling unsafe in the City of Melbourne, beggingrated third, with 29% of respondents averaged across all sample groups identifying it

    as a safety issue of concern.

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    Further, the proportion of traders suggesting the removal of those who beg orstrategies to address begging as an appropriate action for Council, decreased by 5%to 7% in 2001 this is down from 12% in 1999.

    Overall, only 8% of those responding to the survey indicated that Council should

    undertake additional strategies to address begging to increase their feelings ofsafety.

    3.6 The current research

    Hanover initiated a research project in September 2000 to gain a betterunderstanding of begging in Melbourne. At the same time, Melbourne City Councilwas considering responses to the issue of begging raised by concerned residentsand traders (see Section 3.2).

    Subsequent discussions resulted in the City of Melbourne and Victoria Police

    collaborating with Hanover on a research study into begging within the CBD.

    The research questions aimed to address:

    the extent and nature of begging within the CBD the housing circumstances of those begging the extent to which begging is driven by desperation the reported pathways to, and reasons for engaging in begging


    the reality of the actual extent of begging in the CBD as compared tothe perception of the issue.

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    4. Methodology

    The study methodology was developed out of the Hanover Outreach Teams substantialexpertise in working with people in the inner city. The study initiated a multi-prongedstrategy to answer the research questions using stakeholder resources of Melbourne CityCouncil, Hanover Welfare Services and Victoria Police. Each stage of data collection wascarried out independently of the other stages. In addition, each stage involved a differentstakeholder group. In this way, a multi-faceted and mutually exclusive approach toinformation collection and interpretation was established.

    All four stages allowed information to be collected relating to the prevalence of beggingwithin the CBD during the study period. The prevalence was estimated from Police patrolsurvey forms, MCC liaison with traders and the public, Hanovers established Outreach work,and a specific enumeration procedure carried out by Hanover Outreach support staff duringtwo days of the research project. Each of these stages is further discussed below.

    4.1 Begging Categories

    For the purposes of the present research, three different categories of beggingbehaviour were identified.

    Passive begging techniques refer to those individuals who either sit or stand in onespot with a sign alerting passers-by that they need money. It is also possible toinclude an extended hand towards passers-by as a passive begging technique.

    Active begging techniques refer to individuals who follow passers-by and ask for

    money, but who are easily put off when refused. They do not employ any forms ofstandover tactics.

    Aggressive begging techniques refer to obtaining money from members of the publicby using stand-over tactics and threatening speech or behaviour. Aggressivetechniques elicit fear and discomfort and often border on criminal assault.

    The operational definition of begging in this study did not include other streetincome generating activities, such as busking, pavement art, prostitution or drugdealing.

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    4.2 Stage 1 Outreach case histories

    Stakeholder group: Hanover Outreach staff.Data collection period: November 2000 to February 2001.Nature of information: Data compiled from individual case histories.

    Information was gathered as part of Outreach staffsusual role.

    Data compiled: Basic demographic information, estimated in some cases.Housing circumstances.Style of begging.Indicators of poverty.Reasons for begging.


    Over the course of the data collection period, Hanover Outreach staff made contactwith 14 individuals within the CBD who often engage in begging behaviours. As

    part of their usual Outreach work, Hanover staff spoke with clients about issuesrelating to begging, poverty, housing, employment, and substance abuse.

    Data collection was carried out over the full 4 month collection period. This meantthat questioning procedures could be less formal, therefore, more detailedinformation could be gathered as clients established a relationship with Outreachstaff and became comfortable discussing their circumstances.

    At no time were clients compelled to answer the questions posed by Outreach staff.Outreach assistance was not declined if clients chose not to participate.Engagement in conversation was completely voluntary.

    4.3 Stage 2 Police enumeration

    Stakeholder group: Plain clothed and uniformed members of theVictoria Police Force.

    Data collection period: November 2000 to February 2001.Nature of information: Hand completed survey forms.Data compiled: Basic demographic information.

    Suburb of residence.Employment status.Receipt of welfare payments.

    Other forms of income.Presence of parental support.Action taken by member welfare referral/chargedwith offence.


    In November 2000, plain clothed and uniformed members of the Police Force werebriefed on the aims and issues being addressed by the research. More specifically,they were briefed on the need to establish the prevalence of begging within the CBD,and to further investigate the circumstances of those begging.

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    Both uniformed street patrol and the plain clothed officers involved with OperationLeader, completed survey forms (Appendix A) when either charging or warning anindividual with the Beg Alms summary offence. The completed forms were handedto the Sergeant in charge at the completion of each shift.

    4.4 Stage 3 - Trader and public referrals

    Stakeholder group: Melbourne City Council staff.Data collection period: December 2000 to January 2001. City hotline staff

    for calls.Nature of information: Survey forms completed by traders or general public.

    Data compiled: Basic demographic information.Description of person begging.Brief description of begging episode.


    The City of Melbourne developed a Begging Fact Sheet that was distributed totraders and residents in the CBD. The fact sheet (Appendix B) explained beggingbehaviours, and provided a MCC hotline phone number through which traders andresidents were given the opportunity to report incidences of begging to the MCC.The fact sheet further explained that if begging episodes were aggressive in nature,they could be reported to the Police.

    All calls received by the MCC hotline were written on a survey form (Appendix C)and forwarded by e-mail to Hanover Outreach staff. In addition, each e-mail sent tothe MCC was also recorded on a survey form and forwarded to Hanover Outreachstaff. Once the completed survey forms were received, the Outreach staffinvestigated each report.

    During the study period, Melbourne City Council funded additional hours forOutreach services to enable a timely and positive response to reports of beggingreferred via the hotline.

    If the hotline referral was found to be an instance of begging, Hanover staffattempted to engage the individual and documented the episode for the purposes ofthe study. If a referral was found to be unrelated to begging, Outreach services were

    still offered, however, the referral was not recorded as an instance of begging for thepurposes of the study.

    As well as the fact sheet, a MCC Officer met with a number of key stakeholdergroups in order to further publicise the outreach trial. Both the Fact Sheet andOutreach Trial were key elements of the Melbourne City Councils proactive responseto concerns expressed by residents and traders over the previous week.

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    4.5 Stage 4 City enumeration

    Stakeholder group: Hanover Support and Outreach staff.Data collection period: February 13th and February 16th 2001.Nature of information: Hand completed survey forms.

    Log sheet detailing staff movements.Data compiled: Estimated age.

    Basic description of individual begging.Style of begging.


    The CBD was split up into eight zones where begging behaviours were most likely tobe observed. A description of these zones is included in Table 5. The selection of themajor areas to be covered was informed by the collective experience of members ofthe working group and Hanover Outreach team. The main criteria was to choosethose areas most often frequented by those who beg. In addition, the zones werechosen on the basis of a high level of pedestrian traffic passing through the area,

    thereby being the most lucrative locations for those begging, who need to approachor be visible to as many people as possible.

    An enumeration team comprising Hanover support staff was allocated a zone inwhich they were to observe the prevalence and incidence of begging activitiesthroughout the day. An enumeration form (Appendix D), was to be completed todocument every instance of begging observed by team members. Staff were alsorequired to keep a detailed log of where they were every fifteen minutes, so that theenumeration could be precisely monitored and replicated in the future. If theindividuals observed seemed to be in need of welfare services, the observing supportstaff called in a member of the Outreach team to offer outreach services.

    Over the course of the two days, a count established the number of individualsfound to be begging within the CBD. As a result of completing the log sheet, it wasalso possible to discern those zones most frequently used for begging.

    4.6 Study Limitations

    The study adopted a multi-faceted methodology to the research questions in order toobtain data that could be compared to provide greater confidence in the findings.This strategy acknowledged at the outset the intrinsic limitations in conductingresearch into begging an illegal activity, which is inevitably perceived as deviant or

    anti-social behaviour by the general community.

    General difficulties in undertaking this type of research include:

    Begging is an illegal activity. It is not possible to obtain a representative sample of those begging

    (undefined population).

    Accessing those who beg via welfare services may bias the sample tothose who make use of such services e.g. homeless day centres.

    Need to establish a rapport with interviewees and associated risks forresearchers (interview dynamics).

    Complete coverage of areas to enumerate begging is problematic.

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    The methodological framework attempted to take into consideration the abovefactors within the constraints of resources and time available for the study. Inaddition to the above general methodological dilemmas, the following limitationswere found in conducting the specific stages of the study:

    Stage 1 to 3 data was collected over a limited period at a particular timeof the year. The study period included the busiest retail shoppingmonths of the year (pre Christmas) characterised by high visitor numbersto the CBD

    Some data collection occurred during a period when Police memberswere highly visible within the CBD as a result of the Council and Policeinitiatives to address street begging and media coverage in late 2000.This may have affected the prevalence of begging in the CBD due toincreased risk. Alternatively, the police operations would be expected toresult in increased charges being laid.

    The reliability of the self-report material collected as part of the casestudies (Stage 1) is difficult to verify without violating the privacy rightsof the respondents. However, on the basis of Hanovers previousexperience, Outreach staff were generally satisfied that the data receivedwas reliable.

    Information gathered by police (Stage 2) on those charged with beggingcould not be used to ascertain their accommodation circumstances.Reported suburbs of residence was documented. However, this mayreflect the perceived need of the person being interviewed by police toprovide any place of residence. Thus, someone staying in Hanoverscrisis accommodation facility may well have given South Melbourne as

    their suburb of residence. We have therefore relied on theaccommodation profile data sets obtained through Stage 1 to assess theassociation with homelessness.

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    5. Results

    Results obtained during each of the four study stages are presented in aggregate in order toprevent identification of individuals who beg.

    5.1 Stage 1 Outreach case histories

    Case studies were developed for 14 individuals currently using Hanover Outreachservices. A summary of findings is given in Table 2.

    Table 2:Aggregated demographic information of case study respondents

    Client Number 14

    Approximate age range 18 - 60 years

    Client gender-Male 8

    -Female 6

    Cultural Identity

    -Unknown 1

    -Anglo-Australian 10

    -Koori 1

    -Eastern European 2

    Marital Status

    -Single 11

    -De Facto 3

    It can be seen that respondents ages ranged widely. It should also be noted that,perhaps, contrary to common perceptions, a substantial proportion of the samplewere women. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of the sample were of Anglo-Australianbackground and the majority 79% were single.

    Table 3 describes respondents housing circumstances, other indicators of poverty, aswell as their begging behaviour.

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    Table 3:Aggregated housing and begging related informationfrom case study respondents.

    Housing circumstances (n=14)

    -Sleeping rough 9-Squatting 1

    -Crisis accommodation 1

    -With friends 2

    -With parents 1

    Indicators of poverty(Multiple responses possible)

    -Long term unemployed 13-Long term homelessness 6

    -Substance addiction 10

    Reasons for begging(Multiple responses possible)

    -Food 1-Heroin 7

    -Alcohol 3

    -In need of housing 6

    -To keep children 1

    Style of begging

    -Passive 6

    -Active 8

    -Aggressive 0Hours spent begging (n=7) 30 minutes to 3 hoursDays spent begging (n=7) Less than one day/week

    to five days/weekNumber of respondents who report receivingreduced benefits due to breaching


    Of this sample, 10 (71%) respondents were sleeping rough or in squats. None of the14 respondents were living independently, defined as living without the support orassistance of a family member, friend, or organization.

    Ninety-three per cent of respondents were long-term unemployed, 43% were longterm homeless, and 71% suffered from substance addictions. Each of theseindicators suggests that the income received by begging is a necessary supplement

    for survival.

    With respect to the issue of passive versus aggressive begging techniques,it was found that 43% of respondents were completely passive, preferring to bestationary and use a sign to inform the public of their need for assistance. Fifty-seven per cent of the respondents were more active in their approach. Theseindividuals walked up and down the street asking certain members of the public formoney. None of the case study participants used intimidation or stand-over tacticsas a means of obtaining money from passers-by.

    The majority of respondents could be described as opportunistic beggars,

    characterised by relatively short periods at infrequent intervals, to supplement theirincome to meet immediate needs.

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    The reasons given by respondents for engaging in begging behaviours related totheir life histories, and the pressures their past disadvantage and trauma had placedupon them. Such pressures often led to substance abuse, and in turn promoted achaotic lifestyle. Begging, therefore, was seen as a means of supplementing their

    income in order to feed drug and/or alcohol habits, pay for temporaryaccommodation, or meet basic needs for food and drink.

    5.2 Stage 2 Police enumeration

    Table 4 shows the aggregated data collected by members of the Police Force overthe ten week collection period.

    Table 4:Aggregate data obtained from the Police Survey forms.

    Client number overall 29

    Number of repeat offenders within sample 7Age range 15 to 49 years

    Client gender

    - Male 23- Female 6

    Currently employed?

    - Yes 0- No 29

    Currently receiving welfare payments?

    - Yes 27

    - No 2

    Parental support?- Yes 2

    - No 27Other income?

    - Yes 1

    - No 26Suburb of residence given

    -Yes 28

    -No 1

    The age of this group averaged 21 years, but ranged from 15 to 49 years. Overthree-quarters were male. This data shows that the majority of those charged with

    begging were receiving welfare benefits (93%). All individuals were unemployed atthe time of questioning.

    Only a small proportion of individuals claimed to have parental support (7%). Oneindividual stated that he was receiving an income in addition to his welfare benefits(3%).

    Of the 29 charged or warned with begging, only seven (24%) were charged morethan once over the period. This suggests that only a small proportion of thosebegging use it as a regular means of income support and supports the data on theoutcomes of charges laid during 2000 (see Section 3.3).

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    A suburb of residence was provided when asked for 28 (97%) of those charged orwarned. No definitive information was gathered on their accommodationcircumstances, in particular whether they were homeless at the time or staying ininsecure or unstable housing. The majority (61%) provided a suburb close to theCBD (less than 7 kms); 25% were from western or northern suburbs, whilst the

    remainder (14%) were from outer eastern or north eastern suburbs. The mostcommon suburbs included St Kilda (4), Preston (2), Flemington (2), North Melbourne(2), Fitzroy (2) and St Albans (2). Of the total number charged or warned, 97%reported a suburb of residence.

    5.3 Stage 3 - Trader and public referrals

    Following the distribution of the Fact Sheet How to Respond to People who Beg inNovember 2000 (during the ten-week period that the MCC hotline was in operation),a total of nine phone calls/emails were received. Of these nine contacts, five werefrom members of the public, three were from employees of banks or convenience

    stores, and one was from another welfare organization. Considering the level ofawareness within trader and resident populations about begging in the precedingperiod, this represents a very low level of concern about passive begging.

    Each of these reports were referred to the Outreach team so that they could beapproached and offered assistance. Of the nine referrals, two (22%) were found notto be begging at the time Outreach staff responded, one (11%) refused assistance,and the other six (66%) had disappeared by the time Outreach arrived at thereported location.

    5.4 Stage 4 City enumeration

    The enumeration covered 8 locations (zones) on 2 workdays of one week in February2001. Table 5 shows the number of individuals observed to be begging on bothTuesday the 13th and Friday the 16th of February. Only one person was observedbegging on both the 13th and the 16th. All other individuals were observed onlyonce. A total of 15 incidents of begging were observed, representing 14 individuals.

    Table 5: City enumeration according to date and city zoneof observed begging behaviour.

    Tuesday 13th

    FebruaryFriday 16



    Zone 1 Flinders St Station &surrounds

    1 -

    Zone 2 Swanston Street 1 -

    Zone 3 Cnr Russell & Bourke Sts 2 1

    Zone 4 Bourke Street Mall 1 -Zone 5 Melbourne Central

    Station & surrounds2 1

    Zone 6 Lonsdale Street 1 1

    Zone 7 Parliament Station &surrounds

    2 2

    Zone 8 Spencer Street station - -TOTAL 10 5

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    As the enumeration procedure started at 8am and concluded at 6.30pm, thissuggests that the number of individuals begging over the course of a day is muchsmaller than has been suggested by some in the public debate on begging.

    Eleven (79%) of those observed were male. Three (21%) were estimated to be agedbetween 18-24 years, 21% aged 25-34 years, 42% aged 35-54 years and 2 (14%)were over 55 years.

    The majority of those begging were operating alone, however two (1 older male and1 female) were accompanied by another companion.

    Eight (57%) were observed to be walking along the street and approaching passersby for money. Three were observed standing in one location and asking passers-byfor money, whilst another three were sitting and asking passers-by for money. Onewas playing a musical instrument with a sign stating that he was homeless. None

    were observed acting in an aggressive manner, although the majority were makingdirect verbal contact with selected passers by.

    The period of time spent begging was generally short that is, less than one hour.One person was observed at two locations on the same day covering a two hourperiod. However, no individual was observed to be begging in the same place forover two hours.

    Subsequent observation of one person begging at the corner of Lonsdale andElizabeth Streets between 11 am to 12 pm found that 3 members of the publicdonated a total of $4.00. Follow up observation of others has indicated a similarsuccess rate indicating a low level of income obtained.

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    6. Discussion

    The aim of the present research was to identify the number of individuals begging within

    Melbournes CBD, as well as investigate the issues most commonly associated with begging.The results are discussed below as they relate to the initial research questions.

    6.1 What is the extent of begging within the CBD?

    The various data sets paint a consistent picture demonstrating that during the studyperiod, the number of individuals found to be begging within the CBD was low andwas typically far lower than has been reported in the media in the recent past.

    The Police data suggests that over the ten week study period, 29 individuals wereeither charged or warned for begging. When converted to a daily average, it can be

    estimated that fewer than one individual was warned/charged per day.

    Data collected from the Outreach team city enumeration process demonstrated thatbetween five and ten individuals could be begging within the CBD on a particularday of the week.

    The MCC hotline and the case histories provide additional insight into the beggingissue although they do not provide a reliable count of the number of individualsbegging within the CBD. However had begging been endemic in the CBD area, onewould have expected a greater number of individuals to be referred to the hotline.Similarly, a greater number of individuals would have been available to participate inthe Outreach case history collection through their assertive outreach work.

    Whilst each stage of the study does not by itself provide a definitive count of theextent of begging, the aggregate profile points to a low level of begging in terms ofindividuals. On the basis of this evidence, we conclude that it is probable that fewerthan 10 individuals were begging in the CBD on any single day.

    This conclusion is based on data collection during a particular period of the year. It isaknowledged that a range of factors, such as seasonal variations, increasedpresence of police and increased drug dealing may impact on decisions aboutwhether to or where to beg.

    However, we would conclude that the number of people who beg in the CBD is inreality very small.

    6.2 What is the nature of begging within the CBD?

    6.2.1 Passive, active, and aggressive techniques

    The case history material, the Police data, and city enumeration datademonstrated that all recorded begging episodes were either passive oractive in nature. No incidences of aggressive begging techniques wereobserved or reported during the study period.

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    It should be noted that this does not preclude the existence of either past orcurrent reports of aggressive begging. Rather, the evidence indicates thatthese methods are less commonly used than passive or active techniques.

    6.2.2 Duration of begging episodes

    Data pertaining to the duration of begging episodes and the amount ofmoney collected per episode was not directly assessed by this study. Theindirect evidence obtained through the city enumeration and case historydata suggest that some individuals spend only a few minutes begging,whilst others can spend a whole day begging. Outreach staff reported thatindividuals who begged for long periods of time usually stayed in one spot.This spot was more likely to be considered their turf. Those who begged foronly a few minutes at a time were more likely to be mobile and approachpassers by at random.

    Seven of the case study respondents were able to specify the amount of timethey spent begging. One female reported a single opportunistic episode,when she needed money to get herself out of a crisis situation. A malereported begging for up to 2 hours on one or two days per week. Anothermale, who was sleeping in alcoves and was receiving reduced governmentbenefits, reported begging for between 30 minutes to 3 hours on as manydays of the week as necessary in order to meet his needs.

    Whilst the sample size in the study precludes drawing firm conclusions onthe nature of begging, the profile obtained is strongly suggestive of a patternof begging (frequency and duration) characterised as opportunistic for many

    to meet their immediate needs. For a proportion, their begging is a moreregular income supplement, due in part to one or more addictions, such asalcohol, drugs or gambling.

    6.2.3 Amounts of money earned through begging

    Anecdotal evidence gained through Outreach observation and questioningof individuals who beg, suggests that within an hour, people can collect aslittle as ten cents, or as much as four dollars. One case study participantreported receiving a fifty dollar donation from a man who had just won atthe T.A.B. and was feeling generous. However, this appears to be anexception. The present study provided no evidence to suggest thatindividuals can make a large amount of money from begging.

    6.3 What are the housing circumstances of those begging?

    The case history data demonstrated that 71% of respondents were sleeping rough orwere living in squats, while 28% of respondents were living in either crisisaccommodation or with friends or family. This suggests that independent housingcircumstances may not have been a feasible option for this group either financiallyor with respect to having the necessary living skills.

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    Of the total number charged or warned by Police, 97% were able to state a suburb ofresidence. It should be noted however, that Police survey forms did not collectinformation relating to the stability of respondents accommodation, nor whether theywere living in independent housing (renting or owner-occupied). It is not possible

    therefore, to draw any conclusions from this data concerning the housingcircumstances of those charged by the police.

    No housing related information was collected by either the city enumerationprocedure or through the MCC hotline, therefore, no conclusions can be drawn fromthis data.

    6.4 To what extent is begging driven by desperation?

    The evaluation of an individuals reasons for begging has always been consideredrelevant to the issue of begging and vagrancy in Victoria. For example, the Vagrancy

    Act is based upon a legal definition of vagrant which states those who are idleand disorderly, eg. persons who refuse to work, unlicensed peddlers, beggars, etc.and persons without visible means of subsistence; persons persistently soliciting inpublic places for immoral purposes. (Osborn, 1954). The process of evaluating anindividuals circumstances against such a definition is highly subjective.

    According to the case history material collected by Outreach staff, respondentsreported that they engaged in begging behaviours for several reasons including:

    Welfare benefits were seen as inadequate in order for individuals tosupport drug and/or alcohol habits as well as house, clothe, and

    feed themselves. Despite receiving constant verbal abuse from passers-by and feeling

    begging is humiliating, it is their only means of supplementinggovernment benefits without engaging in theft, robbery, orprostitution.

    Some respondents had mental health problems that impeded theirability to function in a day-to day sense. Therefore, begging providedadditional income for food, cigarettes, or to feed drug habits.

    Begging provided income for immediate and urgent needs thatcould not be satisfied by approaching welfare organisations that

    were unable to give cash handouts.

    6.5 What are the reported pathways to, and reasons for, engagingin begging behaviours?

    The Stage 1 data collection (case history material) gives a clearer insight into thelives of those who beg and the issues that motivate them. It can be seen that almostall individuals included in the case studies were long term unemployed, and mostwere experiencing long term homelessness. Many had received benefits from thegovernment, however, 28% reported that they had payments reduced or stopped as aresult of Centrelink breaching. Consequent to reduced government benefits and inmost cases, some form of substance abuse, the individuals interviewed viewedbegging as an alternate source of income.

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    The main reasons specified by Hanover Outreach staff for individuals engaging inbegging include psychiatric disability, addiction to heroin and alcohol, and the needfor additional money in order to pay for food and housing.

    The Police survey forms demonstrated that all bar one of those charged with beggingwere currently receiving welfare payments. This profile supports the aboveconclusion that begging is an income supplement necessary for survival at somelevel, related to a need for food, accommodation, or substance habits. As the datacollected on the Police survey form was not detailed, it is not possible to drawdefinite conclusions about the individuals reasons for begging. However, the abovedata strongly points to a connection between poverty, substance abuse,homelessness and mental illness with begging. This suggests that the view thatthose who beg misrepresent their circumstances as a scam is largely a myth.

    Additional quantitative research would need to be undertaken in order to furtherelucidate the pathways into begging.

    6.6 To what extent does the perception of begging in the CBD approximatethe actual extent of the issue?

    The main finding form this study indicates that up to 10 individuals may be beggingon any one day in the CBD, with up to one person being charged by police. Thedata shows that most begging is opportunistic with those who beg operating aloneand for relatively short periods. No evidence of organised gangs or groups wasfound from any of the research strategies.

    The evidence suggests a far lower level of begging than suggested in recent publicdebate on the issue. This low level of begging also appears to contradict publicperceptions.

    The City of Melbournes Melbourne City Perceptions Monitor (July-December 2000)has shown that begging is a concern for visitors to the city, with 12% of the sample(500 people) reporting begging as an issue that adversely affects the image of thecity. The more recent Perceptions of Safety Survey (2001) of a mixed sample oftraders, residents and visitors has found that 29% of the 705 respondents identifiedbegging as one factor that made them feel unsafe.

    A partial explanation for this apparent contradiction between our measured level ofbegging and the public perception lies in the visibility of a someone begging topassers-by during a typical period of begging.

    The City is home to more than 52,000 people. It has a daytime working, studying andvisiting population of over 567,000 people and hosts an increasing number ofregional and international visitors. Nearly half (48%) of daily visitors come for workpurposes and approximately 30% for shopping, recreation and dining (City ofMelbourne, Draft City Plan 2010: 14).

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    The following example of a typical begging situation serves to show the extent ofvisibility of begging to passers-by. A single person begging for 2 hours at a busyCBD location may be sighted by 40 passers-by per minute. Only a proportion ofthese will be verbally approached for money. Our observations suggest an average

    of one per minute. Over the two hour period, we estimate that 4,800 will see andmay acknowledge the presence and activity of the person begging, whilst 120 maybe verbally asked for money in this period.

    On the assumption that 10 people are begging on a given day, for a total of 4 hourseach during busy periods, we estimate that a total of 96,000 passers-by may see oneor more beggars. Over the same period, 2,400 passers-by may be personallyapproached for money.

    Whilst these figures are estimates based on the study findings, they serve to indicatethe coverage potentially achieved by a relatively small number of beggars. Asignificant proportion of daily visitors, residents or traders are therefore likely towitness begging activities or be personally approached for money over time.

    Their attitude to begging may be influenced by a wide range of factors, includingpast experiences of begging requests. It is not possible to estimate the level ofconcern about begging as a safety issue from this example. It does however showthat a small number of individuals begging have a potential to raise awareness ofbegging amongst a substantial number of people in our community.

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    7. Conclusion

    The purpose of this study has been to gain an objective profile and understanding of theextent and nature of begging in Melbourne CBD. A clear consensus emerging from theindividual elements of the research is that the level of begging during the study period was

    low. We conclude that up to 10 people are likely to be begging on a single day. Most arebegging alone for relatively short periods there was no evidence of gangs or groups ofpeople systematically begging.

    Whilst there may have been particular circumstances that influenced the level of beggingduring the study period, the longer term police data on charges laid is consistent with theabove conclusion.

    For most people, begging is opportunistic in that they are seeking small amounts of moneyto pay for immediate needs invariably for food, cigarettes, accommodation, alcohol ordrugs. The case studies and police data show that the great majority are on governmentbenefits or pension. There is a clear association with substance abuse, homelessness, long-

    term unemployment and poverty. Based on our research, there is no evidence of middleclass young adults begging for thrills or professional beggars from affluent suburbs.

    On the contrary, most of those who beg cover a wide age range it is not confined to youngadults. Similarly, the research shows that most beg alone, rather than in groups.

    Observations of those begging and the police data showed no instances of aggressivebegging over the study period. The majority use the method of walking along street locationswith high volumes of pedestrian traffic and verbally asking for money from selectedpedestrians. Some people who beg rely on a story that provides the passer by withpermission to give. Others simply ask for a few coins or dollars for a meal, cigarettes, a trainor tram ticket or a bed for the night.

    The evidence also suggests a low success rate with only small change being given.Based on our observations, a person begging for 4 hours may receive up to 16 donationstotalling between $3 and $32. Even allowing for possible variance, this is a far cry fromsome perceptions that begging is easy.

    The case studies show that for most people, begging is a last resort when other options havebeen exhausted. Most commented about their embarrassment or frustration at having to begfor money. They cease begging as soon as they have raised sufficient money to meet theirimmediate needs. Begging is clearly a harsh necessity for some particularly for those onreduced government benefits. Those interviewed described begging as demeaning,frustrating and time consuming. However, it is seen as a lesser evil compared to other illegalactivities such as dealing in drugs, theft or prostitution.

    From our research, we conclude that there is a low level of begging in the CBD. We havealso sought to explain in part why the public perception of the extent of begging is so atodds with our evidence. Our estimates serve to indicate that even a single person beggingin a prominent location will be seen by or may approach a substantial number ofpedestrians in the City.

    It is important that we acknowledge the limitations of this study: research into this socialissue is problematic due the prior experiences of those who beg and the illegal status ofbegging. We have learnt valuable lessons in undertaking the study that may inform future

    research strategies. However, the evidence from the multi-pronged methodology gives usconfidence about the main findings.

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    8. Recommendations

    The following recommendations have been developed by the working group from the main

    findings of the study:

    1. Further research should be undertaken to replicate the enumeration strategy(street observation) to monitor the level of begging in the CBD, taking into accountpossible seasonal variations.

    2. The Victoria Police should review and enhance data collection on reportedbegging offences to enable trends to be fully analysed.

    3. The Victoria Police should further develop their training program for traineeconstables involved in City Patrol Group operations to include presentations bywelfare service providers to increase knowledge of street welfare issues and

    improve working relationships with service providers.4. The City of Melbourne, in collaboration with the Department of Human Services,

    should continue consult with homeless service providers and other welfareagencies to enhance the co-ordination and coverage of assertive outreach tothose people who are homeless and engaged in street activities, includingbegging, sleeping out and public intoxication, in the CBD.

    5. The City of Melbourne should continue consultation with representative residentand trader groups to disseminate the findings of the research and to take apartnership approach to the development of appropriate strategies to respond tobegging.

    6. The City of Melbourne should consider the development of targeted strategies toincrease awareness and understanding within the community about the extentand nature of begging.

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    Wardaugh, J, & Jones, J (1999) Begging in time and space: shadow work and the rural

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    APPENDIX A Police Enumeration Survey Form

    Details of Person ProcessedRequired for Statistical Return


    Offence Charged



    Male/Female Male Female

    Suburb of Residence

    Employed Yes No

    Receiving welfare payments Yes No

    Supported by Parents Yes No

    Any other form of Income Yes No

    Referred to support agency Yes No

    If yes, agency and date referred to

    Source of Complaint detected on patrol or


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    APPENDIX B - City of Melbourne Fact Sheet on Begging

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    Appendix C Trader and Public Referral Form

    Begging Outreach TrialCity of Melbourne Hotline

    Date of call

    Time of call


    Approximate age


    Hair colour and length

    Description of clothes

    Other distinguishing features

    Address of where action is taking place or

    closest street intersection

    Brief description of what the person is


    Contact details (optional)

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    Appendix D City Enumeration by Hanover Staff



    Time: 8am-9.30am





    Staff members name: .



    Estimated age: 5-12 years

    13-17 years

    18-24 years

    25-34 years

    35-54 years

    55+ years

    Subjects gender: Male Female

    Hair colour:..





    Distinguishing features/characteristics:




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    Is subject alone?: Yes No

    If no, explain circumstances of other:



    Subject observed: Sitting with sign

    Sitting and asking passers by for money, etc.

    Standing with sign

    Standing and asking passers by for money etc

    Busking with sign specifying homelessness

    Walking street and approaching passers by

    Waiting at ATM


    Reason for begging (if known):




    Referral made: Yes No

    Referral made to:

    Reason for referral: