A FORMER drug addict, who says she was a "master manipulator" when asking for money on the streets, has urged people not to give cash to beggars and instead donate to services which help homeless people.

Rosie Kirkham, aged 54, used hard drugs, including heroin, for 25 years and says she told "outrageous lies" when begging for money.

Now a support worker at St Paul's Hostel for homeless people in Worcester, Ms Kirkham said she "wants people to understand the reality of drug taking and begging and think twice about giving money directly to someone on the street".

RELATED NEWS: Don't give money to rough sleepers, police say

Her comments echo those of Sergeant Duncan Reynolds, of Hereford City Northside Team, who earlier this year advised people against giving money to rough sleepers in Hereford.

He said a homeless person in Hereford could earn £70 begging over six or seven hours.

Police want people to text a donation line rather than give money to those on the street as they fear the cash is spent directly on drugs and alcohol.

Writing for our sister paper the Worcester News, Ms Kirkham said: "I was a drug addict for 25 years and for the last eight of those, I injected drugs into my groin because my other veins could not take a needle.

"I worry for the public who are used and manipulated as a money making tool and lied to. I am giving an honest account of my experience. Please think twice about giving money directly – it' much better to donate to a homeless charity.

"I know these people have been very damaged, often at an early age.

"Heroin was my drug of choice. It took everything from me. It’s a soul destroying, lonely and wretched way of life.

"Not all beggars are rough sleepers. The problem is most people do not know the difference and can be manipulated. I did this. I became a master manipulator and a great story teller.

"All of us knew the ‘type’ of person to target. I would tell anyone who might listen to me the most outrageous lies. All I could think about was the money I could make. When I had begged enough for the drugs I would go and buy them, then return to my pitch to beg and continue the perpetual cycle.

"During this time I had accommodation in a number of hostels and bed and breakfasts, but I would always end up leaving as I would not part with the small ‘top up’ to stay. This was because my drugs came first. I would manipulate people who were trying to help me and would leave, preferring to keep the money for my drugs.

"There is never any need to give money to a person sitting or begging on the street. There are many, many soup kitchens in Worcester so a person will not go hungry.

"I want to remove the myth that is often heard or told: a homeless person cannot get benefits because they do not have an address. Maggs Day Centre in Worcester provides the address where mail can be sent (such as letters from DWP)  and they help to apply for benefits.

RELATED NEWS: Don't give money to rough sleepers, police say

"St Paul’s Hostel is the address people can also use if they are staying there and the staff help make a benefit claim, open a bank account and any other help. Please don’t be fooled.

"I see many well meaning people wanting to help the homeless but until the person addresses their addiction, they are, as that old saying goes, ‘putting the cart before the horse’.

"The drug services in Worcester, run by Swanswell, are very good and the Worcester public need to know that.

"As for me, it’s now six years since I left that life behind. I found help through St Paul’s Hostel and their trauma informed system works. I had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) from their counsellor and through the positive relationships I developed there I started to get better.

"In 2017 I found my own home. Now I am happy to say that I work for St Paul’s Hostel as a project worker. I am now the productive member of society that I yearned to be all those years ago but never ever thought it possible.”

Instead of giving cash to beggars, Ms Kirkham urges people to donate to the Worcester Cares scheme instead, to help fund services for homeless people.

A small donation makes an enormous difference. £2 can pay for a meal and £5 provides services to get someone off the street. Donate £2 by texting WORC02 or £5 by texting WORC05 to 70070.