A post on the Canterbury Residents Group on Facebook is attracting a lot of attention today.
From Olivia Norris, it tells how she was approached by a man who managed to get £5 out of her by saying he was homeless and needed money for food for him and his pregnant girlfriend.
She later saw him in a pub drinking a pint and was understandably angry at being cheated.
The uncomfortable truth is, however, that there are a lot of conmen operating on Canterbury streets who are simply out to exploit your good nature and kindness.
In this case, it’s clear that the conman is using technique which tries to get to your heart. He told Olivia: “I have been shouted at and told to eff-off by so many people tonight, all I need is a bit of change so I can get some food for me and my girlfriend who is pregnant and homeless with me.”
What he’s saying is really something like: “The rest of the world’s horrible, but I can trust you not to be, can’t I?” It’s a shameless emotional ploy which scratches at you not to be like the others.
Now, I don’t know if this is the same guy I see prowling around the city every day. He’s usually unshaven, often wears a hat and almost always approaches women.
I saw him going up to a friend of mine and when I warned her that he was almost certainly going to be spending the money on drink or drugs, he went berserk began to hurl abuse at me. Rumbled, I believe.
This bloke spends a lot of time around Rose Square and Rose Lane so you may have been approached by him.
Also, don’t be drawn in by the bloke who sits outside Betfred nor the blonde haired chap who deliberately wears filthy clothing.
Neither of them are homeless. They’re just professional beggars, the latter was even prosecuted under the Vagrancy Act in 2015 and ordered not to beg on the streets. He has repeatedly ignored the order of the court.
The reality is that if you feel moved by the plight of homeless people on the streets, but are are concerned about what they might do with money you might give them, then it’s always best to donate to a recognised charity such as Catching Lives or Porchlight.
If you do that then you can be sure the money will be spent on the right things for the most needy people. And then it may be that the hustlers and liars will realise that there’s no point plying their nefarious trade in Canterbury any more.