Man with schizophrenia sentenced in court for begging in front of Bendigo Coles, Mitchell Street bus stop

Begging was increasingly common in the Bendigo CBD until a police crackdown last year. Multiple people have been sentenced in court since.
Begging was increasingly common in the Bendigo CBD until a police crackdown last year. Multiple people have been sentenced in court since.

ANOTHER person has been sentenced in a Bendigo court for begging in public following a police crackdown last year.

The man in his 40s, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Monday on multiple counts of begging alms.

He was spotted sitting in front of Coles in the Bendigo CBD at 6.30am on September 18 asking passers-by for money.

Coles staff asked the man to move on, but he refused to leave. Police were called to the area and he was offered referrals to public housing organisations, which he refused for various reasons.

He told police he asked three people for money before staff came out and asked him to leave.

The man was spotted begging again 10 days later at a bus stop on Mitchell Street.

When approached by police, he told them to “get ----ed” and boarded a bus, making an obscene gesture to police as it drove away.

The man told the court he was begging because he wanted money to help him move out of his unit, which had no heating and no insulation. He was living off the Disability Support Pension due to his schizophrenia.

The man was begging on the streets of Bendigo for seven months before police picked him up.

Since last year, he has been able to find permanent housing through Haven; Home, Safe.

The man told the court things had improved in 2018.

“Everything is fine. I don’t beg anymore,” he said.

“I’ve thrown all those old friendships out that were causing me to get into trouble.”

The man had previously been jailed for begging, but police did not suggest another jail term.

Magistrate Sarah Leighfield agreed and said it was good to see the man had found better accommodation.

“It’s obvious you’ve made lots of positive changes in your life, and I won’t step in the way,” she said.

The man was placed on a six-month good behaviour bond.

Police in Bendigo charged 31 people with begging alms in 2017 – an increase from just one charge in 2016. There were no begging charges in 2015, and just over one per year from 2008 to 2016.

In 2017, police encouraged the public to report begging so they could refer the homeless to housing organisations.