The calls come ahead of the City of Perth council meeting tonight when councillors will decide whether to ask the State Government to make begging illegal.
Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said it was not fine grabbing but a tactic to tackle the growing number of false beggars and to connect those in genuine need with support agencies.
In WA, Police can only issue a 24-hour move-on notice to beggars if they display anti-social behaviour.
But representatives from the Salvation Army, Manna Inc and Street Smugglers say moving people on and fining them for begging will not solve the bigger problems.
Salvation Army’s Kris Halliday said a survey by the charity showed people begging in Perth were genuinely in need. He said young people living on the streets in particular were disconnected from service providers and many could not access government assistance.
Lieutenant Halliday said partnerships with community services, corporate entities and governments was the key to addressing the needs of those at risk of homelessness.
‘We want to ensure resources are available to help people get out of their situation ” those squatting in abandoned buildings and laneways with no other options. Everyone we surveyed said they’d stop begging if they could,’ he said.
Lt Halliday said there were corporations and government agencies partnering with the Salvation Army to support homeless services and he hoped this would continue, particularly with a tight State Government budget expected.
Manna Inc’s Bev Lowe said demand for the service, which provides 5500 meals weekly to people facing homelessness and disadvantage, was growing with many people also presenting with mental health issues.
‘It’s all well to say we don’t want beggars in the city, but there is nowhere for them to go. We need to care about the fellas who don’t have a safe place to sleep,’ she said.
Mrs Lowe said without a community response to homelessness, and the associated causes, people would continue to beg and live on the streets.
Conrad Liveris, who cofounded Street Smugglers to highlight homelessness in Perth, said beggars presented an extreme example of homelessness to the public.
‘Homelessness is on the rise and it’s unjustified in such a great, affluent city,’ he said.
Mr Liveris echoed Lt Halliday’s comments that it was up to businesses and individuals to address the issue, not just governments.
– Manna Inc is hosting a fundraiser to help people understand the difficulties of sleeping rough and raise enough money to deliver 10,000 meals to people in need on May 3. Visit mannainc.com.au