Lockdown is hitting Aberdeen’s homeless and street beggars, with less people offering change due to shops, pubs and clubs being closed.
Beggars on city streets have seen the money they collect from members of the public more than half due to coronavirus and the guidance and restrictions that have come with it.
Some of Aberdeen’s most vulnerable people who are forced into begging rely on donations from shoppers and revellers enjoying the city centre nightlife.
But with nights out on hold indefinitely, all but essential shops locked up, and people encouraged to pay by contactless card to avoid handling money, beggars have noticed a massive change in the funds they are able to collect.
Sergeant Geoff Catto, part of the Rosemount Community Policing Team, said he had noticed the struggles.
He said: “They rely on the economy of the city centre to get a few pounds in their hat.
“The people coming out of shops or even the pubs and the clubs at night and they rely on that for their income.
“I have been speaking to a few of them who are struggling with that.
“We’ve been speaking to the partner agencies like Cyrenians, Turning Point, the council and that. They’re trying to ensure they’re getting support through food parcels, etc, and the NHS alcohol and drugs action group as well.
“I was speaking to a guy who was sitting outside Sainsbury’s and somebody complained ‘he’s been sitting there for a few hours, should he really be there?’.
“When I spoke to him he had about 50p in front of him and he said ‘I’m trying to get £7 to pay for my electric’.
“I’m not really going to send him home with no electric. It’s a bit of a shame.”
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
Kevin Simpson, 26, who turned to begging after developing a drug problem said: “It was okay at the start because people had pity on you because there was pretty much no beggars, so if they saw someone begging they knew you definitely needed money.
“If people saw you begging they knew you really were struggling.
“It was okay at that point and I got quite a few notes handed out.
“But then the guidance came out to encourage everyone to use their contactless cards and not come in contact with money so less people have change. That’s what makes it even more slow now.”
Asked if he had noticed much of a difference between the money he would get normally and during lockdown, he replied: “Yeah, majorly.”
He added: “Normally if you’re lucky it should be like £5 an hour. That’s an average. Sometimes you’ll get nothing, sometimes you’ll get loads.
“With this virus going on I’d be making £1 an hour or £2 an hour so it’s pretty hard.
“It’s barely enough to stop myself from getting sick and have enough food.
“I’m making a really strong effort to try and cut this stuff out and try and sober myself up because I don’t want to be begging anymore. I just want to go back to having a normal life.
“It’s pretty much the same for everyone. There’s hardly any beggars out anymore.”
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “The same support for food is available to anyone who needs it and anyone who wishes a support assessment can have one.”
Aberdeen City Council housing spokeswoman Councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “We are dealing with rough sleepers as well as any other homeless person by ensuring our statutory duties are upheld, and this continues irrespective of lockdown.
“Where a rough sleeper is referred to ourselves, we immediately provide temporary accommodation (assuming they wish this type of support) to end their rough sleeping. They are then invited to participate in a homeless assessment where appropriate longer-term placement can be accessed.
“We expect to see an increase in homeless presentations post-lockdown as a result of poverty and relationship breakdown, and we will continue to uphold our statutory duties.”