VULNERABLE and homeless people living on the town's streets refuse to accept help from a range of charities because they can make hundreds of pounds each night by begging.

Launchpad, Faith and Churches in Reading Drop In Centre have come together to encourage generous passers-by not to give beggars money in an effort to stamp out a trend of Class A drug addictions.

Ian Caren, CEO of Launchpad, is keen to dispel the myth that Reading has a homeless crisis and instead believes the town suffers as a result of the excellent support available.

He said: "The reality is the overwhelming majority of these people are trying to feed a drug or alcohol problem. If people are giving them money during the day, all of the rehab work we do is undone.

"The absolute vast majority have got a Class A drug addiction and we are seeing people deteriorate in front of our eyes.

"People will come from far and wide to beg on the streets of Reading because people are more generous and there are so many charities currently tackling the problem.

"When we looked at the begging situation we could see it had got noticeably worse this year, but most of the time half of these people are already in accommodation."

Launchpad has more than 140 beds, but the charity's leader is concerned by the alarming number of people who will sleep on the streets in the middle of winter, simply to fund their addiction.

Malcolm Pierce, director of Faith Christian Group, spearheaded the 'Bed for the Night' scheme, but is equally frustrated by the lack of uptake.

He added: "Our struggle seems to be in January and February. The offer is there for a decent sleep and somewhere safe, but people won't come in.

"They feel like they need to stay out in the cold and keep begging so that they have enough money to buy drugs.

"The problem is they are being encouraged to stay out on the streets, because the idea of tough love is a hard thing for people to understand when they think they are doing something good."