BEGGING in Stratford is out of control with claims £100 a day can be made on the town’s streets.
Former mayor Cyril Bennis recently counted nine different beggars around the town centre on a single afternoon.
He told The Observer: “Every street seems to be a recognised begging area.
“I have no joy to see people at rock bottom in their lives, but some don’t want assistance offered. We try to give them an opportunity but many who take this lifestyle are not genuine.
“The authorities don’t have the money or staff, so it should be our responsibility to not give them money if they don’t want help.
“They are there because people are giving them money and it’s keeping them there.
“It’s out of control and unnecessary and needs to be resolved.”
A recovering heroin addict The Observer is calling Dave to protect his identity, said he was also shocked to see so many begging during a recent rare trip to the town centre – recognising many of them as drug addicts.
He added: “They’re mainly not homeless. They are begging to pay for their drug habits and to fund shameless drug gangs that have flooded Stratford.
“They had all deteriorated since I last saw them.
“I cannot understand why these people are allowed to beg when there are laws in place to prevent this.
“Most of the passersby don’t know where to look. They feel guilt for no reason and the beggars play on this. Anyone who takes pity and gives anything has been duped.”
He added beggars could easily make £100 a day.
Clopton Labour councillor Jason Fojtik said: “It is getting worse but we can’t just sweep people off the streets.
“But most of them are begging to fund an addiction and they need to be helped to come off it.
“The government has a role to play. Budget cuts have impacted on mental health services and the council and they need help to tackle the issue.
“There needs to be a more joined up approach to deal with the situation between charitable organisations, the council, police and shelters.
“In terms of what residents can do I think it’s more helpful to give to charity.”
A joint campaign launched in 2016 by Stratforward BID, Stratford District Council and Warwickshire Police, attempted to tackle begging. It appealed for people not to give money to beggars in a bid to encourage them to seek support from Stratford Link Project off Sheep Street.
Stratford District Council said this week it was planning another campaign later this year and was reviewing its approach to the issue of begging.
The council has also set up a Just Giving page – www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stratfordlinkproject – allowing residents to donate to the Stratford Link rather than give money to beggars.
Warwickshire Police had not responded to our request for a comment at the time of going to press.