Dundee’s city centre boss has come under fire from vulnerable locals for her claim that the city’s rough sleepers are “career beggars”.
Sarah Craig told a community meeting that “not a single” person begging in Dundee is homeless, as many stay in temporary accommodation.
At the meeting of the City Centre and Harbour Community Council, Ms Craig said: “They are career beggars. We know all the individuals and despite the fact that some of them appear homeless they have accommodation.
“It breaks my heart to see people, especially the elderly, reaching into their purses for sometimes quite significant amounts of money.”
Ms Craig was backed by local community police officer Sergeant Martin Jenkins, who said he knew of some beggars making up to £60 a day.
He also claimed some beggars took sleeping bags out into the streets to use as “props” in order to attract sympathy.
Sgt Jenkins said: “If they’re sleeping on the streets that is their choice. There are some you’ll see with sleeping bags but a lot of the time they’re taking that out with them as a prop.”
Locals begging on the streets said Ms Craig’s remarks were “total nonsense”.
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A 42-year-old, named only as Stewart, told the Tele he had been sleeping rough since leaving prison in March – and couldn’t find anywhere to stay.
“I didn’t have a home to go back to and I wasn’t safe at the accommodation I was staying at. If I had a house to go to I would be there,” he said.
“I sit out here for three or four hours a day and then go and try to be useful. Eagles Wings Trust is great to go to.
“I do know that some people who beg have a house and beg so they have money for drugs and things like that but that’s not me.
“I’ve been in this situation since March and I’ve got no help. No friends and no family either.
“I’m basically alone.”
Another beggar, Michael, 31, said he received Universal Credit benefit but insisted it was not enough to get by on.
“I get about £200 a month but in places such as Soapwork Lane you pay £80 a fortnight for your accommodation,” he said. “I’m out here begging so I can afford to feed myself. I have to go to the church’s clothing bank so I can dress myself.
“Do you think I want to be out here? Of course not. What she’s saying is total nonsense.
“Just because you’re not sleeping rough doesn’t mean you’re not homeless.”
Ms Craig’s comments were slammed by Alison Watson, deputy director of homelessness charity Shelter Scotland (pictured below).
She said: “The term ‘career beggar’ is deeply offensive and it’s shocking to hear someone from the council referring to people with such contempt.
“The reality is that whatever the reasons for people begging, it is a desperate, lonely and dangerous existence and not something that people just choose to do.
“Not everyone who begs is homeless and not everyone who is homeless begs.
“These comments assume that they are the same thing and show no understanding of the real people in these stories.
“Our experience is that no one who is begging would do so if they had another option.”
She added: “It may well be the case that some of those who beg have some form of accommodation but that should not mean help and support should be withdrawn.”