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- Fungi has caused controversy by drinking in the morning and swindling shoppers out of money
- The 44-year-old - whose real name is James Clarke - has three children
- Friends said the alcoholic vanished after the first show was aired
- Channel 4 said he has left James Turner Street for 'personal reasons'
By Rob Cooper
PUBLISHED: 12:08 EST, 24 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:45 EST, 24 January 2014
A recovering drug addict who appears on Benefits Street has fled his home after apparently suffering a 'meltdown' as a result of the show.
Fungi - whose real name is James Clarke - has moved out of the road in Birmingham for 'personal reasons'.
The 44-year-old has caused controversy on the Channel 4 series by swigging beer in the morning and openly swindling shoppers out of money.
Controversy: Fungi from Benefits Street who has moved out of the road after apparently 'suffering a meltdown as a result of the show'
The father-of-three has openly confessed to being an alcoholic and admitted he spends most of his £400 a month state handouts on drink.
Channel 4 has been heavily criticised for 'exploiting' the residents of James Turner Street, in Birmingham, who appeared on the show.
Fungi is one of the best known faces on the television show and his friends admitted today that they are worried about him.
There have been claims that television producers 'bribed' him with beer to appear on the show but they have been strenuously denied by Channel 4.
Benefits Street 'star': Fungi, with a cigarette behind his ear, talks to Gerrard who is the son of White Dee
Moved out: Fungi is no longer living in his property on Benefits Street in Birmingham
Steve Haywood, 58, who runs a roofing company on the street, said his close friend should be in rehab.
'I am really worried about Fungi,' he said. 'Despite his addictions and problems, Fungi is a gentle soul and the exposure caused by the Channel 4 series might have been too much for him.
'As soon as the first episode aired he disappeared. No one was expecting the backlash which happened and it really affected him and must have driven him over the edge.
'I wouldn't be surprised if he's had some sort of meltdown. He was vulnerable before the series was aired but it's obviously had a terrible affect on him.
'I know there was a lot of bad press about Channel 4 giving him drink, that is obviously really bad because he is an alcoholic, that shouldn't have happened, he is a vulnerable man.
'The street is different now, it is a lot less friendly, mainly because the people on the street don't like all the attention they are getting.
'I don't know where Fungi is, I wish I did, I hope Channel 4 are keeping him safe.
'I know the people on the street miss him and just want him to come home safe and sound.'
A spokesman for Channel 4 confirmed that Fungi had moved out of Benefits Street.
'The production team are in contact with Fungi, they know where he is and that he is well. He has moved from the area for personal reasons,' he said.
Jobless: Fungi - who is 44-year-old James Clarke - has admitted that he spends most of his £400 a month state handouts on drink