“MOST people begging in Chester are not homeless”.
This is the bold statement adorning posters that form part of a new campaign cracking down on beggars in the city.
Cheshire Police and Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) are warning that anyone “deceiving the public out of money” by pretending to be homeless will now face arrest.
Cllr Angela Claydon, cabinet member for housing, said: “The council will not tolerate people misleading others for financial gain.
“We have heard stories of these people earning up to £400 a day, particularly during high profile events.”
The move will likely prove controversial among some campaigners and organisations who claim the problem of rough-sleeping is far worse than it is portrayed by the authorities.
But it has gained the support of one homeless charity, Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH).
Robert Bisset, CEO of CATH, said: “I fully support the crackdown to deter people begging in the city.
“I would discourage anyone to give to beggars as the likelihood is that any money given would not be spent in their best interests.”
The council and police claim the majority of people begging in Chester have somewhere to live and often come into the city, particularly on big event days, to “mislead
Inspector Barry Brown said: “We’re working closely with the council and partners to tackle this problem.
“Officers from our Beat Team and Anti-Social Behaviour Unit in Chester will engage with beggars on high profile event days and will advise of the potential penalties and the consequences of their actions.
“Repeated or aggressive begging will lead to arrest and people could be permanently banned from entering Chester.”
Cllr Claydon added: “We are highlighting this type of activity so that the public understand the problem and won’t be deceived by those who have a place to live begging in the city.
“If you would like to help the homeless please can I ask that you give your money direct to one of the many local charities in the city.”
Working to engage with beggars in this way supports the council’s aim to have the cleanest, safest and most sustainable neighbourhoods in the country, she said.
See full story in the Chester Leader