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Last year there were 3,434 people experiencing homelessness in Alabama, according to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness

A US police chief has apologised for an “insensitive” Facebook post in which two officers held up a “homeless quilt” made up of signs used for begging.

The officers in Mobile, Alabama, said it was a Christmas message.

The chief of the police force said it did not condone panhandling – a US term for begging.

But he said the Mobile police department did not intend to “make light of those who find themselves in a homeless state”.

In the photo, two officers held up various cardboard signs taped together that showed messages such as “Homeless. Need help,” and “Trying to make it. Anything helps. God bless you.”

“Wanna wish everybody in 4th precinct a Merry Christmas, especially our captain,” the post said. “Hope you enjoy our homeless quilt! Sincerely, Panhandler patrol.”

One Facebook user reposted the original post with the message: “Imagine taking pride in terrorising the most vulnerable people in society.”

The repost attracted thousands of angry comments, with some calling for the officers to be fired.

The Mobile police department then posted the apology.

“Our position has always been to partner with community service providers to help us help those faced with homelessness with hope to improve their quality of life,” the post said.

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