BEING homeless is not a crime.

If anything the homeless person is the victim of a society that is unable or unwilling to provide for the most vulnerable.

Begging is also not illegal and whatever the motivation for asking strangers for cash it is surely a lifestyle that no-one would chose to follow.

There has been a huge noticeable increase in Glasgow city centre in both rough sleeping and begging.

The two, while obviously connected, do not always go hand in hand.

Not every rough sleeper is begging and certainly not every beggar is without a place to stay.

It is a complicated problem and what we see when someone is sleeping in a doorway is the end result of often many years of multiple complex personal issues.

These people need support either with addiction, mental health, dealing with a past trauma often all three and putting a temporary roof over their head is not enough to solve the problem.

There are countless cases of people who are on the streets being found accommodation and within weeks, days even, they are back on the streets.

The lack of a place to stay is what we see but it is not the root cause of their problems.

The multiple agencies involved need to be patient and be prepared to offer support repeatedly. The alternative is we turn our backs on people and write them off.

We should never write off people and consign them to a life on the streets, excluded from society for the rest of their life which is likely to be cut short.

Among the numbers of people who are sleeping rough and those who are begging on the streets of Glasgow there is also an issue with anti-social behaviour which cannot be ignored.

There is drinking and drunkenness, drug taking and low level offending often involving victims who are other people in the same situation.

The City Council through a begging strategy working group has come up with a plan to use Criminal Anti-Social Behaviour Orders which would ultimately ban people form the city centre if they are causing problems.

This is not criminalising begging, it is a response to people who are persistent low level offenders who are a nuisance to the general public and often a danger to other people on the streets.

We need to think of this as two separate problems.

It is not, and cannot be, a response to rough sleeping and begging in the city centre. If it was it would be draconian and outrageous and ineffective.

If people are dealing drugs in the street or committing assaults and other crimes then that can’t be allowed to continue unchecked.

The key to this is ensuring that the services these people need are offered and sufficient to have a positive effect.

However we need to be clear that the bigger problem in Glasgow is homelessness and addiction.

To this, sadly, there is no easy answer.