A Chamber of Commerce chair in Devon has caused controversy by calling for a homelessness charity to be relocated out of town because of alleged increased levels of anti-social behaviour.
Susie Colley, who represents traders in Torquay, said shops were losing money because beneficiaries of Humanity Torbay were abusing substances and harassing shoppers in the street.
Colley told Third Sector that Humanity Torbay founder Ellie Waugh did an "exemplary" job, but "stores will end up closing" because the charity, which offers food to vulnerable people, was attracting increasing numbers of homeless people to its central Torquay site and many were causing a nuisance in the streets.
Some shops had seen their income decline by 60 per cent, she said. Customers in one store, added Colley, felt so intimidated they had to call the police to be escorted out.
"Retailers have got so desperate they contacted me," said Colley. "I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't listen to their views.
"If Humanity Torbay moved slightly out of town it would not have as much impact on retailers."
Third Sector was unable to contact Waugh, but a message posted on her charity's Facebook page today said the charity would stay put. "I could not be more proud of Humanity Torbay and we are not leaving Torquay," it said.
The post added that homeless people accounted for only 20 per cent of the vulnerable people the charity helped.
It said the charity was working on a strategy that would sort out "who the genuine homeless are and who the actual professional beggars are".
In a video posted on the Devon Live website, Waugh called on the council to do more to tackle the issue of homelessness. "This shouldn't be happening," she said.