SO, the Melbourne City Council has a plan to clean up its CBD of beggars.
While aesthetically, it would be good for the city, it is really only masking the problem of not only beggars, but also the genuine homeless.
The CBD of Melbourne may be targeted by professional beggars, but there are also so many others who have fallen on tough times and have to resort to living on the streets and swallowing their pride to ask for hand-outs and support.
These are the faceless people of not only metropolitan Melbourne, but also many regional and rural areas of the nation.
These are the people many of us walk by and choose to ignore.
But these are also the people who desperately need a hand up, rather than a hand-out.
Hopefully, this new campaign by the Melbourne City Council will target only the professional beggars – who aggressively demand cash from passers-by – rather than the genuine homeless cases.
Aimed at revitalising Melbourne CBD streets, the city council has joined police and the Salvation Army to use CCTV and improved co-ordinated prosecutions to crack down on professional beggars.
It has, however, stressed that those genuinely in need of support would be helped.
Under the new plan, announced by Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, most beggars – including the homeless and mentally ill – would go to court and, instead of being fined, they would face a compulsory diversion program involving health checks, training and finding employment.
Those who choose to flout the program then face the prospect of jail.
In announcing the plans to revitalise the Melbourne CBD, Cr Doyle made a plea for people not to give to beggars, particularly those who aggressively demanded cash.
“I don’t think you can nominate the amount you are begging,” he said.
It is these “professional beggars” who are making life harder for those who have genuinely hit hard times, who have no home and can’t find work.
These pros, some of whom become aggressive if offered coins instead of notes, are turning good Samaritans off lending a hand to those who really need it.
Hopefully the CCTV footage will weed out the aggressive beggars from the genuine homeless people.
And, under this new campaign, hopefully they find the support and hand-up they desperately seek.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.