The priest in charge of a homeless shelter has resigned amid allegations he was giving money to a young man who used it to buy drugs.

Father Alan Sharpe, pictured right, stepped down as chairman of the St Patrick's night shelter in Hove after he was filmed visiting a bank to take out cash, which he then gave to a 24-year-old man.

The man was followed and filmed using the money to buy drugs.

The scandal is expected to send shock waves through a community which has long regarded Father Alan as one of its pillars.

The vicar, 68, who lived in the vicarage near St Patrick's Church in Cambridge Road, Hove, established the shelter in 1985 and has done much to highlight the plight of the homeless.

He was unstinting in his charity work. The Queen, Tony Blair and David Cameron have all visited the shelter in recent years.

Father Alan, who has quit as a director of the Lorica Trust, which runs the shelter, said: "It has come to my attention that one particular individual I have personally helped financially could be using the money inappropriately, helping them to buy drugs rather than food and clothes, for example.

"The charity operates with very strict procedures but my position means that any doubts regarding my personal actions reflect directly upon it.

"For that reason, I decided to resign and would urge everyone to carefully consider the homeless in this matter."

The Diocese of Chichester said it had seen no evidence but was aware of the allegations made about the vicar.

A spokesman for the diocese said: "He has resigned from the trust, which isn't anything to do with the diocese, but he hasn't resigned as the parish priest. At the moment he's taking a break."

Sussex Police said last night they were aware of the allegations but were not investigating.

A documentary, to be shown next week on the BBC, claims Father Alan repeatedly visited a cash machine in Western Road to remove cash which was later used by the younger man to buy drugs.

A statement from St Patrick's said Father Alan also faced allegations questioning his "personal propriety" in relation to the receipt of charitable donations.

Father Alan, whose wife died five years ago, said: "The homeless receive much needed help from the charity which itself needs support at this time if its vital work for our community is to continue.

"I have devoted my life to the support and care of the vulnerable and poor in our society. It was my core belief that everyone deserves care and support that led me to establish the night shelter in 1985.

"I still hold that belief and, outside the charity, have helped many with gifts of my own money.

"It is a sad fact of life but these allegations show that my actions could be to the detriment of the vital work undertaken by St Patrick's."

A spokesman for Lorica said: "St Patrick's has taken the situation very seriously and has undertaken a full and thorough investigation which included an independent review of its financial and governance procedures.

"The resulting reports show that the trust systems are sound and that it operates appropriately and to the standard set by the regulators which include the Charity Commission, Companies House and the Supporting People team at Brighton and Hove City Council."

An earlier version of this report suggested that Father Alan was paid £25,500 a year. Lorica Trust, which runs St Patrick's, has asked us to make clear that he did not receive payment for his role as chairman of Lorica's trustees. We are happy to do this and apologise for any misunderstanding.