A HOMELESS man fears he could face jail as police clampdown on begging in Leamington town centre.
The man, who spoke to the Observer anonymously, sleeps in a tent on the outskirts of Leamington. During the day he comes into the town centre where he begs to try and make money to eat.
But he says police have ramped up the pressure on homeless people in recent weeks and is now scared he could end up behind bars.
The man – who is in his mid 50s – said: “Today I’ve already been asked to move twice. If they see me a third time then I get taken to jail.
“I get a hot meal and drink, but still it’s jail and I don’t want to be in there.
“I still have a £100 fine hanging over me from last year which I can’t afford to pay. How can I? If I had the money I wouldn’t be here begging everyday.”
The man – who used to live with his partner in Leamington until they split eight years ago – says police have had a stronger presence since more people have taken to sleeping on the Parade.
He said: “I can understand why they ask us to move on sometimes. When there are so many of us on the Parade it does look bad on the town.
“Most of the policemen are ok and will just ask us to move around the block.
“I think their issue is more with people who are sleeping on the Parade all day and then being aggressive when they beg. I saw a man chase an old lady down the street the other day. I try and have a word if they get out of hand.
“Living on the streets isn’t something I’d wish on anyone. I’ve been urinated on and punched in the face. Having to hide when I see a policeman is just another stress.”
Warwickshire Police say they warn people before issuing them with a so-called community protection notice to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Sgt Allison Wiggin said: “We have recently issued two notices to homeless people in Warwick district after receiving complaints about their behaviour, but this is only done after they have received a warning notice advising them of their conduct. A full notice is then issued if the behaviour identified on the letter does not stop.
She added Warwickshire Police remained committed to working with Warwick District Council and charities supporting the homeless to try and get help for them.
“Warning letters are issued jointly with Warwick District Council as a last resort to try and amend the person’s behaviour and council enforcement will only be taken after they have been kept informed throughout the process with clear explanation as to the reasons why.
“Our focus is on getting individuals engaged with the support services to help them make a change for the better in their lives, while continuing to protect our local community from harm.”