SHOPPERS are giving hundreds of thousands of pounds to rough sleepers in Colchester every year, a councillor has claimed.

Darius Laws (Con) cited figures from charity Beacon House, which estimates £330,000 is being dolled out to people on the streets.

He urged the public not to hand out money to homeless people, but to fund the networks which help them instead.

Mr Laws said: “This estimate is based on the numbers of known homeless and intelligence on the amount of daily cash they’re getting.

“Charities like Beacon House are doing unbelievably heroic work in helping to support homeless people.

“Giving them money means they can invest in property and services to address holistic and long-term needs for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

His message was echoed by PCSOs and Colchester Council street wardens, who also know the town’s homeless community by name.

It follows the Community Day of Support in which Mr Laws spent a day with colleagues and other agencies on the front line across Colchester.

The councillor, whose Castle ward is affected by aggressive begging, praised the multi-agency and cross-party effort which took place.

He was keen to inform residents that homeless people are not simply being moved on but that blatant antisocial behaviour such as urinating in shop doorways and foul language must still be tackled.

He said: “Not everyone is going to be confidence enough to approach people but if they see someone doing something they shouldn’t be, it might be worth mentioning it to someone like a PCSO or their ward councillors.

“This is what we’re here for.

“The public perception is there are lots of homeless people in the town, but the people who are there on a Friday and Saturday night are different to those who you see on a Monday morning in the rain.”