"Fake Homeless": Who's Begging On The Streets?

Ep 1/1

Sunday 25 November

From 10.00am

BBC THREE

There are claims that the UK has a serious problem with people pretending to be homeless. The “fake homeless” trick other people into giving them money, and reports suggest that these people are becoming increasingly widespread.

But is this just a scare story created to demonise real homeless people? Journalist Ellie Flynn investigates.

The number of people sleeping rough in England is at a record high: government data shows that on any given night in autumn last year, nearly 5,000 people were recorded sleeping on the streets, a figure that has more than doubled since 2010. Some police records show that 80 percent of people begging have 'some kind of home' to go to.

Police in Cambridgeshire say they are practicing a 'zero tolerance' attitude to begging; in Liverpool one business owner claims every beggar outside his pubs and clubs is a fake; and in Devon, a 'homeless vigilante' - Ashley Sims - believes he is taking a stand by photographing and publicly shaming 'fake homeless' beggars.

Homelessness charities say the individuals that people like Ashley and Cambridge police are taking action against may well have homes, but could have complex and chaotic lives that led to them begging on the streets. They argue that people are demonising the homeless population, who already face a lack of trust and abuse from the public.

So are we in a country full of scammers? What's the truth?

MA