Beggars in the small English city of Ely are not genuinely homeless and shouldn’t be given money by the public, police have claimed.
Cambridgeshire Police said those who say they are sleeping rough are making “substantial amounts of money”.
Officers said the public is in danger of being misled and suggested people leave food or a hot drink for beggars rather than cash.
However, some local residents insists there are homeless people in the city.
Cambridgeshire Police issued the warning after an increase in begging in Ely, which has a population of about 20,000.
The force said it is confident there are no homeless people on the streets after carrying out work with beggars.
It said offers of housing and support have been given to everyone known to be involved in street begging in the city.
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Officers added that they were “keen to impress upon people that there are no rough sleepers in Ely”.
Sergeant Phil Priestley said: “There are no rough sleepers in Ely – all of the individuals that have been seen begging recently have been catered for with regards to housing and support.
“We do not want people to be misled, because it can be a lucrative opportunity.
“It is natural to feel for anyone who appears to be living on the streets or who seems to be affected by hardship.
“We urge anyone who wants to assist the issue of homelessness to donate to registered charity who will take a coordinated approach to tackling the problem.
“If you do feel moved to give something – offer food or a warm drink by all means – but please do not offer money.”
A spokesman for East Cambridgeshire District Cambs Council said the council has taken very thorough steps to ensure that people in need find support.
Angela Parmenter, housing and community safety manager at ECDC, said: “Sometimes people don’t want to engage with us because it is possible to earn substantial amounts of money on the streets of Ely.
“It may appear that the local authority is uncaring – but in truth we are making support available.”
However, one resident took to Facebook to disputed it saying: “The man called Charlie who usually sits in the cloisters is genuinely homeless. Yes, he has a phone but it’s a basic £10 one that a man brought him.
“He doesn’t do drugs or drink alcohol. He loves his hot chocolate and is very appreciative when you take him a hot drink.
“I know a lot of the others that also sit around asking for money ARE NOT HOMELESS.”
Other residents of the city also expressed doubt about whether those involved in begging were homeless.
Shopper Mike Potts, 53, said: “To be honest I didn’t think all beggars are homeless. They don’t all claim to be.
“Some are just down on their luck or have substance issues. I still think that means we should be able to give them a few coins.”