MOST beggars on the streets of Stratford are looking for hand-outs to support a class A drug habit.
Shocking statistics reveal nine out of ten beggars wanted money to pay for drugs such as heroin and crack rather than to buy food, or pay for a place to stay.
At the latest Stratforward networking and briefing meeting, BID members were urged to help Stratford District Council and Warwickshire Police with a campaign to raise awareness of the issues around begging.
Karin Stanley, community safety manager at the district council, and Insp Julia Brealey from Warwickshire Police, told the briefing there was a small but growing numbers of beggars in the town.
They said the average beggar in Stratford could earn up to £100 a day, with some travelling specially to the town solely for the lucrative pickings on offer from generous townspeople and visitors.
Ms Stanley said a lack of awareness meant kind-hearted people could actually be putting the lives of drug-addicted beggars at risk without even realising by funding their habit.
And well-meaning businesses, by giving money or food and drink, could also be indirectly helping them buy drugs, or making them more comfortable, and prolonging their time on the streets.
Mrs Stanley said: “One of the challenges that we have is that people in Stratford are very kind and very generous and actually that doesn’t help.
“We want to try and help people to understand that giving money to someone who begs on the street is not a benign act, it can have fatal consequences.”
Rather than give money or food and drink, businesses were told to direct beggars to the Stratford Link Project off Sheep Street, open Tuesdays and Thursdays.
And business owners were also advised to ask beggars to move on if they were outside their premises, which may give them the impetus to seek help or support.
Insp Brealey added it was important beggars were helped to help themselves.
She said: “Prosecutions really aren’t a solution to this, it’s getting people into a situation where they can take care of themselves and aren’t sitting on the streets.
“I’m not going to be able to stop Stratford being an attractive place for beggars – but what we can do is make sure people who come to Stratford know what rules of engagement we’re willing to put up with if they are to come here.”
The briefing also heard six out of ten beggars in Stratford had access to accommodation, and help was available to those who did not.