Police call to snub beggar sparks heated debate

Tesco Express on Central Park Way in Wigan
Tesco Express on Central Park Way in Wigan
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POLICE have come under fire for calling on the public not to give aid to a Wigan beggar.

Officers had put a warning on social media saying that a man was asking shoppers for alms outside Hindley’s Tesco Extra.

It read: “It has been brought to our attention there is a male begging in a public place near to Tesco, Hindley.

“We request that members of the community do not encourage this behaviour by giving him money.

“Sec 3 Vagrancy Act - Begging in a Public Place any person sighting persons committing this offence please contact the police on 101.”

But hundreds of people have since taken to Facebook and Twitter, mainly condemning the officers for a perceived lack of compassion and also for not making suggestions as to how the man could be more practically helped.

The police today issued a statement in which they said the message was well-intentioned although could have been better worded.

Wigan Evening Post readers had plenty to say on the matter too and opinion was divided.

Danielle Louise wrote: “I personally believe charity starts at home and some but not all of beggars are not actually beggars a lot of them are drug addicts so I will not be paying for someone else’s s drug addiction I’d quite happily buy them a brew or something warm to eat.”

Anthony Barnes wrote: “While those in government claim thousands and thousands on expenses, for second homes, get subsidised food and champagne and free travel, they then get their taxpayer-funded henchmen to tell us it’s an offence for someone to beg. I’d rather give my money to a crack head than the bunch of self-serving hypocrites.

Michaela Wilkinson wrote: “They have no right telllng us how and where to spend our money. They are people too and need to be treated wth respect and putting it on Facebook is not respect. He has feelings too. He is begging for a reason why would anyone want to stop the generosity of others.

“I make blessing bags for the homeless and I’d like anyone to try and stop me.”

Lora Marsden said: “I’ve personally raised a lot of money for homeless charities such as the Booth centre in Manchester by joining their sponsored ‘sleep out’ so it’s a cause I can comment on with understanding and genuine compassion. However, most homeless charities tell you not to give homeless people/beggars money but to either point them in the direction of the nearest shelter or support network (such as the brick) or to offer to buy them a drink/something to eat.

“This is because there is massive amounts of evidence that tell us that in most cases, money is used to fuel addictions to drugs and alcohol. So let’s not have a go at the police - they’re probably fully aware of the advice given by charities. Try offering to buy a homeless person a drink, or something to eat - you might be surprised how often they reject the offer.

“This isn’t to say that addiction to drugs/alcohol isn’t something I acknowledge gets people through the day as its horrible out there on the streets but there are wonderful people out there doing work to support them. It’s too easy to blame the police who at worst could maybe have explained their reasoning better.”

And a police spokesman said: “This post was put on with good intentions in mind however the choice of words that were used could have been better.

“Although we receive relatively few complaints in connection with aggressive begging and there is a clear distinction between those who beg aggressively and harass members of the public and those who do not, giving money to beggars can fuel this problem.

“What the post should have said is that rather than giving money to people who are sat outside, we would encourage the public to donate that money to a charity that can provide these people with the support that they need.”