Police poster tells people giving money to the homeless helps them buy drugs

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A poster telling people not to give change to rough sleepers has sparked a debate on how people treat them.

It's after a housing campaigner posted a picture of a poster online which said: "You will be helping them to buy the drugs that could kill them."

The West Midlands police and crime commissioner says he does not approve of the message.

The poster has been used in other parts of the country before.

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The posters date back to at least 2013, where they were used in areas including London, Surrey and Chester.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson says the posters are being taken down.

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People seem to be split about whether or not you should give spare change to homeless people living on the street.

But if you don't want to give cash to rough sleepers, how else can you help?

"We've always argued that it's a matter of personal choice what you do," says Paul Noblet from the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.

"You can give money - it doesn't have to be a bad thing. If you want to avoid doubt, maybe it's sometimes better to buy that person some food or a drink."

He adds that you can also "make a donation to charity - or to put them in touch with a helpline."

A number of homelessness charities have help lines to call, where they will try and arrange long-term accommodation for homeless people.

Paul welcomes the decision to take the posters down, saying they "really can give the impression that everyone out there rough sleeping is out there just to beg and to make money. It's just so not the case."

image captionNathan plays the penny whistle to try to earn some change

James, in the West Midlands, has been a rough sleeper for "eight years on and off".

He tells Newsbeat: "When I get money, I have to spend it on something to get my head down, like a pastime - I smoke spice."

Nathan, another rough sleeper in the area, says he can make £40 "on a good day," and spends it on "basic living expenses".

He doesn't admit to doing drugs, but says: "if I choose to - that's my fair.

"People spend money on coffee and cigarettes and fatty foods, and all sorts of things that make them feel better."

But Mickey, a Big Issue seller, says: "I used to be on the streets. I used to be on the heroin, crack and mamba [synthetic cannabis]."

"I have beggars sitting here, and when people give them money, it loses me money.

"I've been out here grafting, and they'd rather just give to people that sit on the floor than the people who work for it."

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A 2014 poster from the Chester area also had a similar message on it.

Matt Harrison, director of StreetLink, a charity whose website appeared on the poster, comments: "Research shows that the majority of people sleeping rough or who are homeless do not beg," and recommends contacting a charity if they see a rough sleeper.

He adds: "However, we believe that any campaigns asking people to donate should be carried out sensitively, and that it is always the individual's choice as to whether they give money directly to someone they see on the street."

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