THE chief executive of a leading homeless charity says “well-meaning people” who give money to beggars are fuelling the drug and alcohol addictions of those on the streets.

Andy Winter, from Brighton Housing Trust, said the main challenge is the city’s tolerant attitude to begging. He said giving money was a “disincentive to seeking and accepting help”.

He said that with the charities in the city, nobody should go hungry on the streets of Brighton.

Mr Winter said: “Begging feeds addictions. Those who give money to beggars are at best helping to sustain addictions and rough sleeping.

“At worst, it provides the means to acquire drugs that could kill them. People who give money can be conned.

“A sign that says someone needs £20 to book into a hostel is a great begging pitch, but it is untrue.

“No hostel in Brighton charges upfront but £20 will be enough to feed a drug addiction for a short while.”

Mr Winter said Brighton has become a lucrative place for begging due to residents’ generosity and tolerance.

He added: “Last year I accompanied a reporter from Radio 4’s Today Programme to North Street and Western Road.

“At first she was sceptical about my assertion that begging in Brighton is very profitable, and it is related to addiction.

“The first person she spoke to said he had been begging for three hours and managed to get nearly £50. He told her he would not be using the money to book accommodation but to help him ‘get off his head’.”

Mr Winter said people who hand out tents are also being counter-productive.

He recently met Brighton business owners who are concerned about the increasing antisocial behaviour associated with tents and encampments that have become established in the city.

Mr Winter said: “Many people have been moved to do something in an attempt to help those people living on the streets. They are well-meaning and their actions come from a good place.

“However, their actions are misguided and can be counter-productive, even dangerous.

“Handing out tents makes the situation worse. Tents add to an already dangerous situation for the occupiers and for those seeking to support them.

“There can be sexual assaults in tents, and the occupiers can have medical emergencies which may go unnoticed.

“Those approaching a tent to offer help will not know who is in the tent or what is going on in the tent. Also, tents and encampments normalise rough sleeping.”