A STAGGERING 90 per cent of beggars on Suva's streets are not homeless and many earn between $5 and $20 and in some cases $30 to $40 a day to pay for a variety of things ranging from school fees to a land lease in a specific case.
And research by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation has shown that some even own properties.
It has also found that beggars from the Western side of Viti Levu come into Suva and change into rags before begging in order to get more sympathy and money from the public.
This was established by the Inter Agency Begging Taskforce formed by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation along with police and other key stakeholders.
"There were beggars coming from the Western side using children. We have done our investigations and have discovered that they have families and properties," Minister for Social Welfare Dr Jiko Luveni said.
"They come to Suva, change into their rags and then sit around begging using the children to gain public sympathy."
"Then there are those who are dropped and picked by family members. You will see them in the morning and then they disappear in the evening.
"About 90 per cent of these individuals did give home addresses when interviewed and mentioned that they are staying with relatives or friends or could identify next of kin."
And after profiling 40 regular beggars around the Suva area, Dr Luveni said they had a better understanding of their earning power, referring to begging as a "business".
"The majority of them beg three to five days in the week and receive about $5 and $20 per day, with the exception of one who mentions that she receives about $30 to $40."
"The money they receive is used to pay for food, medical bills, rent, bills and school fees.
"One mentioned that she begs to pay for her land lease while another banks the money he receives.
"Some of them have been begging for more than 10 to 15 years while there are others who are new in the business."
With no legislation explicitly outlawing begging, much of the ministry's focus is placed on stopping beggars using children and rooting out what they call "opportunist beggars".
"The task force has been able to profile the beggars, a database of the regular beggars has been kept with the department. And the recent exercise in June had been able to identify the opportunist who had been begging but have good homes and properties.
These individuals have been warned of the consequences if they continue to beg.
"This profiling has enabled us to identify the different type of beggars and the type of backgrounds they come from.
"This information can assist us to what type of assistance can be given to them."
Police are also working to ensure that those who seek to take advantage of the system are stopped
Assistant Commissioner of Police Rusiate Tudravu said they had officers based in the CBD to monitor beggars who use children and removed them from the streets.