Beggar Off!

Cambridge’s residents have been warned not to give money to the homeless by an ex-beggar.

bbc beggar Breakfast Cambridge cambridgeshire homeless Market Square

A former beggar told Cambridge’s residents not to give money to the homeless this week.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire‘s Breakfast Show asked listeners to ring in to debate the issue during Monday’s show.

Market seller John Smith rang the show to complain that beggars intimidated his customers and urged people not to give them money.

Former beggar Julie agreed with Smith. Julie was homeless between 1997 and 1999 and begged to support her drug habit.  She told the Breakfast Show: “You will do what you need to do, which is begging.

“It is degrading, humiliating, but you don’t really care because you’re desperate for your drink and drugs.”

One of Cambridge’s Big Issue sellers, who has been on the city’s streets for over four years,  told The Tab that the problem lies with beggars coming from other parts of the county. He said: “they come to Cambridge because of the rich tourists, but then can’t get anywhere to live, so all they can do is beg.

“The market sellers don’t really like them. It’s not just their custom they discourage, they beg to people I’m selling to, so I have to tell them to jog on. Anybody can sell The Issue, but they can’t be bothered.”

However, Sarah Colwell, from the Cambridge homeless charity WinterComfort beggared belief by saying that homeless numbers were actually decreasing.

Colwell put this down to the fact that: “homeless people coming to Cambridge are encouraged to go back to the place where they come from.”

One market vendor – who wished to remain anonymous – told The Tab: “Although there are reasons that they are homeless, they bring the whole atmosphere of the market down and are losing us business.”

It’s not the first time people have been told not to give. Cambridgeshire County Council launched a campaign in 2009 to encourage people give the money to homeless charities instead of homeless people themselves.