COLCHESTER’S MP has urged people to stop giving money to people on the streets and instead direct it to charity.

Will Quince, who co-chairs a Government group on homelessness, said cash often handed out was spent on drugs and alcohol.

It is estimated 4,677 people are sleeping rough on streets across the UK.

A count held in Colchester last year found there were 13 people regularly sleeping on the streets in the town.

This was compared to 33 the same time the previous year.

In a debate in Parliament Mr Quince urged members of the public to support homeless charities.

He said: “I know that this will be a controversial point, but we need to try to rechannel the generosity of the British public.

“Too many people are, understandably, giving money to people on the streets.

“My message to them is this. That generosity is incredible, but please direct the money to the amazing charities which work in our towns and cities up and down the country.

“By all means, support people with food, blankets and all sorts of other things, but not with money, because in too many cases, as we find if we speak to rough sleepers, it ends up going on drugs and alcohol, and sadly that is helping to perpetuate their rough sleeping.

“It is making the problem worse, not better, so I encourage people to support charities that are working on the ground and not to give money to individuals.”

Mr Quince also said the sale of “high-strength cheap alcohol” needed to be addressed.

Colchester Borough Homes and Colchester Council secured more than £300,000 in funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to help find homes for people who could find themselves on the street.

Since early December they have found a home for at least 12 people who would otherwise have been sleeping rough.