AS THE homelessness crisis spreads to Portslade’s Boundary Road, charity representatives are suggesting an increased threat of violence in the city centre may be to blame.

Just a year ago it was rare to see people sleeping rough in Portslade but there are now several homeless people begging outside shops and next to bus stops.

Andy Winter, chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust, said: “Living on the streets in central Brighton has become increasingly unsafe and people will move to locations where there is less danger.”

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A number of organisations, such as Brighton Housing Trust, St Mungo’s and Antifreeze, offer services to the homeless in Brighton and further afield.

However, they are often overstretched and have rules about alcohol and drugs which make some who sleep rough feel uncomfortable about seeking help.

Jim Deans of Sussex Homeless Support said: “There needs to be a massive radical rethink within the council.

“We need a crisis conference about Brighton’s situation because it’s becoming a shanty town full of desperate young kids using drink and drugs and turning areas into ghettos.”

Sussex Homeless Support operates two converted buses in Brighton where people can get food and a place to sleep.

Mr Deans said the crisis stemmed from people escaping domestic violence and family breakdown, redundancies, hostels closing and room prices quadrupling.

So-called “professional beggars”, a small minority of beggars who have homes but make a career out of asking for money on the streets, also provide competition to those who are genuinely in need.

Mr Deans said: “There is a small group of street drinkers who are not necessarily homeless and just look homeless.

“But they are given too much attention because they are easy to see and very visible.”

Mr Winter would rather see money donated to organisations such as his own rather than given directly to beggars.

He said: “Begging has very little to do with rough sleeping and homelessness and everything to do with addictions.

“Giving money to people on the streets is sustaining addiction and contributing to deaths.

“There is no reason for people to beg in Brighton.

“There are services available providing food, clothing and showers and no hostel charges up front.”

However, Mr Deans believes the rules and bureaucracy that can be associated with charities means giving people on the street exactly what they need can often prove more effective.

He said: “Give your coat to someone who needs that coat because they really need it.”

Though both charity representatives agreed that the root causes of homelessness need to be addressed, they disagreed on approaches to helping those sleeping rough.

Mr Winter said: “Of course I’m concerned about people living on the streets.

“But I don’t believe giving people money and tents is the answer to resolving what is an increasingly serious problem in the city.”