WELL meaning people in Falmouth who succumb to beggars’ pleas for cash, are being advised by the police to support the town’s Big Issue sellers instead.
PC Andy Hocking has even gone as far as stating that people giving to one man in particular are being “conned” into believing he is homeless, when he actually has a flat and is in receipt of benefits.
“There are some genuinely homeless people living a vagrant lifestyle, but they don’t in general go begging in the town centre because they have pride,” said PC Hocking.
“It’s galling when you see people doing it the right way by selling the Big Issue and then see people, and one person in particular, sitting and begging at all times of the day and night.
“There is one man who has a cardboard box and claims to be homeless, but he is not homeless and is in full receipt of housing benefit. People are being conned. I don’t blame them for their generosity, but the money is being gathered under false pretences. It’s people’s choice what they do with their money, but it has to be an informed choice.”
The man in question, who can often be found in Market Street and Grove Place, has been arrested for begging and taken to court on several occasions, but after receiving a small fine is back on the streets again within hours.
“It is a shameful existence, especially when you consider people who are genuinely homeless and trying to do things the right way by selling the Big Issue, are having to compete with him,” said PC Hocking.
“Big Issue sellers are doing it the right way, they are not scroungers. We are great advocates of people who maybe homeless and decide to sell the Big Issue because it’s a great way of earning money legitimately.”
One such person is Colin, 58, who regularly sells the magazine outside the former Bon Marche shop. He has been homeless for four years, due to a “series of different circumstances,” and came to Falmouth in September.
Colin is now homeless by choice and is enjoying his time in Falmouth. “Four years ago I never had a sleeping bag and I was sleeping on a park bench, but where I am now is quite nice,” he said.
“I sell the Big Issue because I enjoy it, I’m here every day even Sundays – it keeps me off the streets,” he joked.
“It works for me. It’s a tough life, but I do enjoy it. I couldn’t go begging myself and I understand those that do, but to say you’re homeless when you’re not is not right.”
Colin is also keen to give something back and any coppers he collects, he donates to charity.
Despite homeless figures being up nationally, it is still not a major problem in Falmouth and often those that are sleeping rough are doing so by choice.
PC Hocking said: “I’m mindful that in this age of austerity, homelessness has become a bigger and more emotive issue. In Falmouth the number varies and it’s a bigger issue during the summer, but sometimes homelessness and vagrancy is a question of choice.
“Accommodation can be arranged and provided by a number of agencies, most notably St Petroc’s, but some choose to live that way – they are not looking for pity.
“Homelessness is not a huge issue and I’d like to think that by working with the various agencies, we help as many people as we can.”
”There are people we have arranged housing for in the past and within three weeks they have left because it doesn’t suit their lifestyle.