HALF of all beggars plying their trade on the streets of one British city own their own home, shock research has revealed today.
Seeing them huddled in blankets and pleading for change, generous shoppers could be forgiven for believing that a small cash donation is helping someone in desperate hardship.
But, shockingly, fewer than one in ten of Nottingham’s beggars is actually homeless.
Of 52 people begging for cash in the East Midlands city, only five were sleeping rough with the rest either living with friends or relatives or, astonishingly, owning their own home.
The findings will fuel fears that begging is now becoming a career choice for the opportunistic, making it impossible for people to distinguish between the charlatans and those in genuine need.
The shock survey was carried out by homeless charity Framework, and comes just two years after police in nearby Birmingham revealed that 65 per cent of the people they arrested for begging actually had a roof over their heads.
Jason Marriott from Framework said: “This research appears to confirm what we have long suggested – that rough sleeping and begging are not the same thing.
“That isn’t to say that people who beg don’t need help because in most cases they certainly do. What matters most, however, is that they get the right kind of help for the problems they are facing.”
Police in Nottingham trying to tackle a begging epidemic are now handing out fines of up to £200 to people persistently asking passers-by for money.
Anti-social behaviour orders are also being used to ban beggars from parts of the city centre and signs have been put up warning the public not to give them money.
Officers handed out four fines last month but have been attacked for targeting those in genuine need.
John Louth, who has been living on Nottingham’s streets since September, said homeowners posing as beggars were giving the genuinely destitute a bad name.
The 43-year-old said: “There are some people who you see begging every day who go back to houses at night.
“Some of them really frustrate me, because they make people question those legitimately in need of help.
“It’s the prerogative of the person donating the money. I never ask someone for cash, or food. I know I’m not spending it on drugs, it’s up to them to trust me.
He said he was fined £90 by the police for begging, and added: “People are good-natured and if they offer me some loose change or a coffee I’m not going to say no.
“If they give £1.50 for a bag of chips, who is that hurting? There are people out here who genuinely beg because they can’t afford a meal.
“It just feels like they keep finding new ways to punish us.”
Of the 52 beggars surveyed only five were known to be sleeping rough, while 16 were living with friends or family and 26 owned their own homes.
The research also found 27 of the 52 people had alcohol issues, 26 admitted to being substance abusers and five had mental health problems.
As a result Nottinghamshire Police and the city council are now encouraging people to support homeless charities rather than give money directly to beggars.
Inspector Paul Gummer said: “It’s a really terrible lifestyle that no one should have to live. But giving them money can just as easily perpetuate the issue.
“We were always aware of the issue of street begging in Nottingham city centre, but we had about 20 individuals on the radar so the Framework survey suggests it is an increasing problem.”
Studies have shown that more than 85 per cent of beggars end up on the streets to raise cash to fund a drug or alcohol addiction.
Police who arrested 28 people during a crackdown on begging in Birmingham in 2013 found that every single one had drugs in their system.
The use of child beggars by criminal gangs as a money-raising scam is also on the rise, according to Britain’s anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland.
source : The Express