Don’t give money to rough sleepers – give it to homelessness charities instead, MP says

A homeless person sleeping rough on a bench. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

A homeless person sleeping rough on a bench. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

Those wanting to give money to the homeless should avoid giving money to rough sleepers and instead give it to charities, a member of parliament has said.

As he prepares to run this month’s Great East Run to raise money for the Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG), Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said homelessness remains one of the town’s biggest issues as another sharp winter approaches.

But while many people will want to do what they can to help people less fortunate than themselves, Mr Martin urged people to think carefully about how they spend their money.

Many rough sleepers, he said, will be addicts who could fritter away their money on drugs or alcohol – whereas some might be professional beggars who do not need the money at all.

Even though he said not giving cash directly to rough sleepers is “not absolutely a hard and fast rule”, he said: “In most cases, most homeless people have had issues in their lives which relate to addictions of one sort or another.

“A large proportion of homeless people are addicted to alcohol or hard drugs, or both.

“If you give cash to someone who is seriously addicted, the likelihood is that they will spend money on the thing they are addicted to.

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“If you give cash to a homeless person, it’s extremely unlikely you’re going to be giving them enough to find housing.

“The only thing they can spend it on is something to take away the pain.

“They need to be finding somewhere to stay, rather than taking away the pain – and the best way to do that is to support charities which can help them to find somewhere to stay.”

He also said “professional beggars are operating all over this country” – and although he has no direct evidence of it taking place in his constituency, he said: “I would be surprised if they weren’t operating in Ipswich.

“They look homeless, beg and pass the money to the person who is controlling them.”

Extra resources are being dedicated to helping homeless people in Suffolk this winter.

Additional government funding of £56,000 means that Ipswich Winter Night Shelter will open for approximately eight weeks longer over the winter period so it can support more people for longer and help them find long-term housing.

Great East Run

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin is hoping to raise as much money for possible IHAG when he takes place in the Great East Run – his first ever half-marathon – on Sunday, September 16.

“I have never in my life run 13 miles and so the whole prospect is a little bit scary,” said Mr Martin.

“But with the good wishes of all those who want to help the homeless behind me, I know I can complete the course.”

He said taking part in Ipswich’s Parkrun had helped improve his fitness and meet new friends.

He added: “The Great East Run is far more of a challenge of course but I could not pass up the opportunity to help homeless people in this way.

“I have chosen to support IHAG because they are a wholly local charity and they give practical help to homeless people.”

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