A Tory council has come under fire over “awful” posters urging the public not to give money to rough sleepers because they might be fakes.
The poster, created by Gloucester City Council, reads: “Are you really helping homeless people?
“In some cases, the people you see sleeping rough are not homeless. They are in accomodation, receiving support and benefits.”
Sharing a photo of a homeless man begging for change, the notice continues: “Think before you give - change is more than coins.”
Instead, the council calls on people to help the homeless by contacting charity StreetLink, or by donating money to an organisation.
The poster sparked a furious response from the Gloucester branch of the Labour party, who accused the council of demonising rough sleepers.
“We are absolutely disgusted by these posters and the Tories should be ashamed they have allowed them to go up,” Labour group leader Terry Pullen and prospective Labour parliamentary candidate Fran Boait said in a joint statement.
“Clearly the nasty party is alive and kicking In Gloucester,” they continued. “The posters imply that most homeless people are not genuine but trying to con people out of money.
“This is shameful and effectively demonises one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our society who need our kindness and care.
“We call upon Gloucester City Council to immediately withdraw these posters.”
Members of the public also hit back at the notice, calling it “disgusting”.
Matthew Knight, who works for Elim Housing Association and helps homeless people in hospital find accommodation, told Gloucester Live he was “disgusted” by the posters.
“I just think it stigmatises all homeless people,” he said. “It insinuates everybody who is begging is not homeless and they are begging because they want money for drugs and alcohol.
“More and more over the last couple of years in Gloucester the homeless are being looked down upon by loads of people.
“Everyone is only two pay checks away from homelessness themselves.”
Writing on Facebook, a woman named Susan Cummins said: “The poster should be headed - Gloucester City Council: are you really helping the homeless? The rest of the text could be deleted and replaced with NO.”
Janey Read added: “I’m so angry Gloucester Council. Your poster is demonising the most marginalised people who are already left in the cold to perish.”
But Tory councillor Jennie Watkins, a council cabinet member for communities and neighbourhoods, defended the poster, arguing that giving money to people who beg “may make life on the street easier for them in the short term”, but could “feed dependency”.
“The intention behind the poster campaign is to catch the public’s attention, to ask them to think about whether their money is helping in the best way and to provide important information about how to refer someone who they may be concerned about for support,” Watkins said.
“It is a challenging and sensitive issue but one we must raise if we are genuine about working together to help people to achieve real change.”
Watkins added that a “huge amount of work” to help rough sleepers in Gloucester has been taking place over the past 18 months.