The beggars were observers and gossip mongers. They kept track of the townspeople's sins.... nothing happened without their knowledge.
The four beggars in front of the church knew everything in the town. They were students of the expressions of young women as they went in to confession, and they saw them as they came out and read the nature of the sin. They knew every little scandal and some very big crimes. They slept at their posts in the shadow of the church so that no one crept in for consolation without their knowledge.