Organisers and volunteers who came together to help an apparently homeless man in Lisburn have revealed the man was not actually homeless.
The Star reported last week how the local community had come together to help a man who had been seen begging on the city streets.
Many local people donated to the campaign after a Facebook page ‘Help John in Lisburn’ was set up to help the man.
However, it was later discovered that the man had a live tenancy with a Housing Association.
The organisers of the Facebook page also found out that the man they believed to be homeless was claiming Job Seekers Allowance and had a bank account.
Those behind the campaign said they feel they have been taken advantage of.
In a statement posted on the page on Saturday, the group said: “We are frustrated and feel that we have all been taken advantage of, some of us giving up a lot of our time and money, others giving up personal possessions, even their personal Bible.”
Marty Chapell, one of the organisers of the group posted: “I’m completely gutted.
“I gave him so much like the rest of the community.
“What I take away from this man is we helped him on face value. The whole of Lisburn got behind him.
“Be proud of what we did. At the end of the day, we weren’t to know.”
Another member of the group, Neal Connor, posted: “We were fooled by this guy’s need, his actions and his motives.
“He played a big part in our lives this week, especially mine. I just fell for this. I will never forget the smirk he had on his face like he knew what he was doing. Finding out these things upset me a lot.”
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who had also stepped in to help the man, said: “We heard that he had a tenancy already with one of the housing associations.
“We do recognise that there may be changes in circumstances that do cause people to find themselves on the streets so I’m not going to judge this individual but clearly if there was any attempt to deceive the community, that would be a matter of disappointment.
“Regardless of the circumstances, I was greatly heartened and encouraged by the overwhelming response of the community.
“That is so reassuring for me to know that there is a solid heart in our community that wants to help.”
The group are now working with Hope Outreach for the Homeless and will be giving any leftover donations to them.