13th Aug, 2020

Big Issue seller says he would be 'better off begging' in town

A BIG Issue seller says he would be better off begging as other homeless people are constantly ‘stealing his pitch’ to beg.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, signed up to start selling the magazine two years ago in a bid to make some ‘honest money’ and give something back in return for a donation.

But in recent months he has seen a surge in homeless people taking over his town centre pitch to plead for money from passers-by.

He said: “I’m at the end of my tether. I have to buy magazines to sell every day, and as soon as I leave my spot they are taking it and begging there.

“The police won’t do anything, and a security guard even tells the beggars they can beg if I go.

“I wanted to give something back so I signed up to sell the Big Issue, but now I feel like I may as well just do the same as them if no one can do anything to help me.”

Warwickshire Police said they knew of and supported most of the homeless people in the area and were working with charities and the council to help them.

Beggars will usually only be asked to move on if they are seen to be intimidating or directly asking people for money.

Sgt Allison Wiggin said: “Begging is viewed as a victimless offence, but it is not uncommon for people to be approached directly and asked for money, which can be intimidating.

“The police approach to tackling begging ranges from giving words of advice to getting court orders for persistent individuals and as a last resort, enforcement. Sometimes this is the only option available if the advice and support we have offered have not been accepted and the individual continues to beg.

“A number of the individuals begging in Leamington are known to our officers and they engage with their individual needs and issues as and when appropriate.”

The number of actual rough sleepers in the district has almost doubled in the past five years to around 20.

But there are also some 200 people who are classed as homeless and regularly have to turn to hostels for a bed or a friend with a sofa.

Sgt Wiggin added: “We continue to work alongside partners and charities, such as Warwick District Council, The Salvation Army and Helping Hands to direct homeless people towards the relevant help and support networks.”

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