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Give to services, not beggars: Vic mayor

AAP logoAAP 29/12/2016 Genevieve Gannon

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has repeated his call for people not to give to beggars as the council ramps up its efforts to address the growing number of people sleeping rough in the city.

From early 2017, outreach teams funded by Melbourne City Council will directly approach homeless people in a bid to connect them with the support they need.

Council officers will work in a team that could include drug and alcohol support workers, nurses, police or Salvation Army officers in an initiative developed to respond to a growing population of vulnerable homeless people.

Mr Doyle said the decision was made to fund "assertive" outreach teams after previous initiatives failed.

"We expected the homeless to come to the services, but we have to take the services to the homeless," Mr Doyle said.

"It's something that we almost have to do person to person."

Support teams will be operational in Melbourne by February or March.

They have been funded as part of a $2 million package announced in June and allocated earlier this month after the council's annual homeless person headcount revealed a jump of more than 74 per cent of people sleeping rough in two years.

The June survey found there were 247 people on the streets this year, up from 142 in 2014.

The city presently has the capacity to provide beds for 80 to 100 homeless people.

"It's our number one social problem," Mr Doyle said on Thursday.

He urged people who want to help the homeless to donate to support services rather than giving directly to beggars.

"Do not give money to beggars," Mr Doyle said.

"Give it to the Salvation Army, give it to VincentCare, give it to Melbourne City Mission, give it to youth projects.

"Give it to one of the service operators who help us put people on the pathway out of homelessness, don't entrench it."

He also advised against donating chairs or bedding to homeless people, saying it was not a pathway out of homelessness.

From next week, council teams will ramp up efforts to remove abandoned bedding and encampments, doubling existing efforts.

Five or six encampments were collected yesterday.

Mr Doyle said the council doesn't take personal beloingings or move people on.

"What we do is we try to engage with them," he said.

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