Ashley Sims is at war with ‘fake homeless’ in Torquay
- Businessman Ashley Sims is at war with what he calls 'fake homeless' in Torquay
- He has been taking photographs of what he claims are professional beggars on the English Riviera
- The vigilante calls it a turf war where aggressive professional beggars are pushing out those in genuine need
- He wants to rid Britain's streets of those people he says are raking in £150 a day
Published: 10:32 GMT, 28 February 2018 | Updated: 14:01 GMT, 28 February 2018
Businessman Ashley Sims is vowing to rid Britain's streets of professional beggars
This Morning viewers were left appalled when a businessman admitted to taking pictures of rough sleepers in a bid to out 'fake beggars'.
Ashley Sims who runs the campaign Killing With Kindness claims the majority of those begging in Torbay have homes to go to, and told Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby that out of the 17 photos he took of people begging, only two of them lived on the streets.
He said: 'One thing they don't like is being photographed, so I photographed every single one of them and I made it clear I was photographing them as well, as I put signs up that said, 'If you are begging, you'll be photographed and cross-referenced.'
Mr Sims, 46, claims professional beggars earn up to £150 per day from kind-hearted shoppers.
The businessman says his campaign to name and shame 'fake homeless' has proved an outstanding success during a trial in Torquay.
Since he began distributing warning posters targeting professional beggars – on lamp-posts and social media sites – he says around a dozen have left the English Riviera to try their luck elsewhere.
Mr Sims has taken photographs of people in Torquay he claims are pretending to be homeless in order to earn up to £150-a-day from begging on the streets
Mr Sims claims professional beggars see it as a 'turf war' in which those genuinely in need are pushed out of city centres because they are seen as competition
Mr Sims says that he has taken photographs of 17 supposedly homeless begging around his hometown of Torquay – and says all but two of those pictured have homes to go to
He insists his threat to post their photographs – and in some cases full names – have succeeded where police and Torbay Council have failed.
A further seven beggars – whose photos have been passed to MailOnline by Mr Sims – are said to be still operating around the shopping centre.
He added: 'This idea of fake homeless, there's no law that you should have to be homeless to beg, if you're desperate enough to be out there begging on the streets in this weather.'
Holly then stepped in to ask if this man was 'lacking compassion.'
She said: 'Are you lacking compassion? If someone came and took a photo of you while you asking for help?'
However Ashley went on to state that he sent someone undercover to investigate 'fake beggars' and one beggar at the end of night invited his mole home for a spaghetti bolognaise.
Mr Sims defended his campaign on This Morning alongside journalist Matt Broomfield (pictured), who criticised the initiative
Holly Willoughby (pictured with co-host Philip Schofield) accused Mr Sims of lacking empathy
However journalist Matt Broomfield, on the show with him, stated that the businessman's investigation was damaging toward those really living rough and reminded him that you don't have to be homeless to be desperate enough to beg.
He said: 'You saying you're doing this to stop the real homeless people from suffering is completely disingenuous.
'People are beaten up by the public, their tents are breeze blocked and urinated on, there's not a culture where everyone thinks people who begging are trustworthy. Everyone already despises them and thinks they're frauds.'
Viewers took to Twitter to berate Mr Sims.
One wrote: “What a vile man!! Disgusting pompous bully. Hardly gonna be millionaires by accepting a blanket or a coffee?! Keep giving peeps! #homelessness #ThisMorning @thismorning”
Another asked: “What's 'fake beggar' supposed to mean. It's called being desperate. #ThisMorning”
Mr Sims says his campaign will now be rolled out nationally using a network of 270 photographers. He claims it will transform shopping centres bedevilled by the fake homeless.
Signs have been posted around Torquay by Mr Sims warning professional beggars that their photographs will be taken
He told MailOnline: 'I live in Torquay and I'm sick to death of people on benefits taking cash-in-hand jobs and begging in their spare time.
'They are very clever and professional. One guy told me he always wore combat kit because passers-by thought he was ex-services. He claimed it was 'better than having a dog'.
'People have their own patches to work and they will fight a turf war with anyone who interferes. They are not homeless – they're funding drug and alcohol addiction.
'I was working with a local charity, Humanity Torbay, and discovered that the genuinely homeless were getting assaulted on the street by professional beggars. That's how all this started.
'Myself and a colleague have taken photos of them all. Most have now gone but seven are still out there. So far we haven't needed to publish a single photo.
'I've told Torbay Council that if they don't take action against those seven by Thursday their photos will go online.'
Mr Sims, 46, who describes himself as an inventor and product developer, said he planned to distribute homeless charity collection boxes to shops which regularly saw beggars operating nearby.
'That way, shoppers can have a clear conscious – giving money to the charities rather than the beggars.
'Because the truth is if no one gave money, professional beggars would go away. Some have told me they can make between £80 and £150 a day.
'They are like franchisees and they think nothing of kicking a genuinely homeless person out of a doorway.
'Through my business contacts I have put together a network of 270 photographers who can be on the streets of any major town or city within two hours of us receiving reports of suspected professional beggars. I fully intend to make this a national campaign.'
Mr Sims said he was 'unsurprised' that both the police and Torbay Council were dismissive of his approach.
'The police are bound to take that view,' he said. 'They haven't got the money or resources to tackle this and they don't appear to have a strategy that works.
'I'd just refer them to the Pubwatch campaign. I used to run pubs and I remember when troublemakers would go from pub to pub causing trouble.
But Mr Sims' campaign has been blasted by police in Torquay and local councillors, with one homeless charity boss calling 'This persecuting of vulnerable adults on our streets 'a disgrace'
'But then the pubs put up their photos and, guess what, the trouble soon stopped.
'This situation with professional beggars is no different.
'But I want to be very clear. I would do anything I could to help genuinely homeless people.
'I have been homeless myself – not for long but I know what it's like to sleep in a car.'
Torbay police inspector Si Jenkinson said: 'The dangerous practice of 'outing' people as professional criminals based on often unverifiable information fails to acknowledge the very complex vulnerabilities and chaotic lives of those concerned.'
The campaign was also criticised by Friends of Factory Row, a charity that runs the town's only homeless hostel.
Chairman Nick Pannell said: 'This persecuting of vulnerable adults on our streets is a disgrace and those involved in encouraging it should be ashamed of themselves.'
In a strongly-worded condemnation of the businessman Torbay Council also urged him to abandon his campaign.
Its statement said: 'We have very real concern as to the consequences of the 'Fake Homeless' campaign which is currently being undertaken.
'Torbay Council knows that an individual's circumstances can frequently change, sometimes on a daily basis, meaning that being able to make a judgement on whether someone is street homeless or not is in many cases a fact that will remain accurate for only a limited period of time.
'We are already aware of an individual wrongly identified as 'fake homeless,' who has then been the subject of abuse via social media.
'The actions being proposed by this campaign encourages vigilantism and enables anyone so-minded to target people, and is therefore unacceptable.'