All the beggars in Ely who appear to be homeless are not, police have claimed – and council officers say they're making "substantial amounts of money".
Police were responding to a spike in the number of beggars operating in the city and have urged people not to give them money – but hot food and drinks are ok.
The force said a recent increase in begging in Ely city centre is being tackled by East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) in partnership with police.
Officers say they are "keen to impress upon people that there are no rough sleepers in Ely".
They went on to say that "all of the individuals that have been seen begging recently have been catered for with regards to housing and support" adding "we do not want people to be misled".
Sergeant Phil Priestley said: "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."
The officer said the council council have taken "very thorough steps to ensure that people in need find support".
Angela Parmenter 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 are uncaring – but in truth we are making support available."
But responding to the police statement which was posted on a force Facebook page, one resident disputed the findings.
She said: "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.
"And their money goes on alcohol or the other. Charlie has been to see about trying to get room in the hostel. Hopefully he will get lucky and get a roof over his head very soon."
Police replied: "We are informed that everyone known to be involved in street begging in Ely has been offered or given the appropriate provision of housing and support. I don't like to get drawn into individual cases."
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