The City of Perth's bid to stamp out begging appears to have hit an early hurdle, with Police Minister Liza Harvey pouring cold water on expectations of Government support and charitable groups questioning if it would work.

The council wants the Government to reintroduce a law making begging illegal, which could clear the way for a diversionary program like that used in Melbourne, where beggars' fines are waived if they take part.

Asked if she believed there was a need for legislation, Mrs Harvey was dismissive, saying "on the surface this appears to be a matter for local government".

The council's plan, approved at a meeting on Tuesday night, also received a mixed response from charities. Shelter WA executive officer Chantal Roberts said she had reservations about programs that forced people to engage with services.

"When people are made to engage in certain programs, the outcome is not usually a successful one," she said. "Shelter WA believes diversionary programs could work if they are used to identify a problem and to work towards addressing it by engaging with people on their own terms.

"Diversionary services proposed by the city are just to get people off the streets, without looking at issues holistically."

Kris Halliday, who co-ordinates the Salvation Army's Doorways Perth program, said the problem was a lack of resources. He said begging did not need to be illegal to connect people with support services.

"We have the willingness to provide a meaningful response (to stop begging) but the resources are scarce," he said. "While we have such a dire situation we're going to have people who beg."

Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said yesterday the city's motivation was "not to see beggars fined or otherwise penalised" but to introduce a more co-ordinated approach to begging. She said Melbourne's experience with a diversionary program, run in conjunction with the Salvation Army, had produced positive results.

The West Australian

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