Homelessness is an issue that is impacting towns and cities across the country with local authorities struggling to help those in need.
But officials have voiced their concerns about the number of so-called professional beggars blighting town centres all over the UK.
The term refers to people who are not homeless but retain a lifestyle of begging to make cash.
For some people this is infuriating and could potentially impact on the help offered to genuinely homeless people.
But for others there is a view that anyone who is desperate enough to sit on the streets and beg for small amounts of change deserves support and sympathy, rather than anger.
This debate has now been brought sharply into focus by James Southern, of Garton, Liverpool, who filmed an interaction with a man he saw begging outside a betting shop in the city.
In the film, 25-year-old James decided to confront the beggar after a previous altercation.
He explains to the man that he spoke with James and his girlfriend the night before and told him he does live in a house.
The beggar responds: “Yeah, I’m not homeless – everyone just assumes that. You don’t have to be sleeping rough to be skint.”
James then reminds the beggar that he previously saw him telling people that he was in fact homeless, to which he says: “Oh did I? I lied.”
As the argument continues, the beggar states: “When I was homeless I started doing this because I really had no choice – and then when I got somewhere to stay, it’s like a job, it’s called professional begging.”
Speaking about his video, James said: “It is a touchy subject but homelessness is a real and complex issue.
“As I said in the video – I have mates who have slept rough and I do think it is disgusting that people are doing this – and being so brazen about it.
“This guy has obviously been begging for a while and has either got used to it, or just finds it an easy way to make some money. I don’t think it is fair on those who are genuinely destitute and have nowhere to live.”
He added: “I believe homelessness is a complex issue, and I don’t want to tarnish genuine beggars and rough sleepers, or make people feel like they shouldn’t give to them if they want to.
“I just wanted to make people think about who they’re giving their money to. I fully support people giving to the most vulnerable in society as long as it’s through registered charities.”
On another side of the debate is homeless and rough sleeping campaigner Michelle Langan.
She has come across the man begging in the video before and asks people to take a different approach when judging the video, the Liverpool Echo reports.
She said: “This isn’t the first video I have seen where someone has confronted ‘a fake beggar’.
“Obviously people will have their own opinion on this. Yes, there are people out there who aren’t homeless and ask for money, that can’t be denied – but we have to look at the reasons why.
“Why are people doing this? The man in the film clearly has some issues. We have met him before.
“We don’t know the circumstances for people doing this. We don’t know about their personal issues – their mental health, possible addictions.
“The man in the film is clearly a vulnerable case.
“We can either choose to demonise him and tell him that he can ‘expect consequences’ or we can challenge why he isn’t getting the help he obviously needs.
“We all have a personal choice about who we help and who we give money to – if you feel uncomfortable giving somebody money, then don’t – it’s your choice. Having a bit of human empathy is a choice too.”
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