Friday, 1 April 2011

beggars can't be choosers

Sometimes I see things that make me angry.

Today I saw a couple of kids, they were maybe 13/14 laughing at a homeless person.
The guy was sat on the pavement outside a shop. I’ve seen him there quite often, he’s fairly young and whilst he never appears drunk his eyes tell me he has an addiction.

He wasn’t troubling anyone, just asking passers by if they could spare any change. He’s not aggressive and as he’s seated people walking past can easily ignore him.
They do.
At first as I was approaching I thought these kids might’ve been talking to him but as I got closer I could hear what they were saying.

The homeless guy was trying to ignore them.
No doubt if he’d said what he wanted to someone would’ve gotten involved and stuck up for the kids and quite possibly the shop he sits outside would move him on.
Of course I don’t have to worry about any such thing so I asked them what they were doing.

Apparently the homeless guys trainers were ‘crap’, he smelt and was dirty.
And what did it have to do with me ? and why didn’t I just fuck off ?

Nothing. But no, I don’t think I will.

I don’t profess to know which particular brand of trainer are considered fashion this week, but I asked them if they thought that maybe someone who was forced to beg in order to survive didn’t have more important things to worry about then the latest footwear.
Then I gave them a five minute lecture.
And then I asked them if they knew what the time was, one of them told me it was 1.30 so I suggested they get to school which was after all where they should be at that time of the day.
Except I wasn’t that polite.

We don’t have a vast amount of homeless people in this town, there are a couple of charity run shelters that help them. And this guy may not even be homeless, but if he is claiming benefits he might get help with rent and a small amount to live on, but it’s not enough to fund a heroin addiction.
I’m not condoning him for being an addict but who am I to judge anyway.
There could be many reasons why his life has ended up the way it has.

It takes a fair amount of desperation and I imagine courage too to put yourself in a situation where you are likely to be subjected to verbal abuse and run the risk of physical assualt on a daily basis.

Personally I don’t care what anyone says you have to be in a position where you have no other option. except perhaps stealing, to resort to begging on the streets.

I’ve heard the stories about beggars who make decent money doing so, perhaps they do in some towns, London maybe or other big cities but not here.
Whilst a lot of people in that situation do have substance issues it’s not true of all, sometimes I think they end up using as a means of escape from the situation they’re in, and you can end up homeless for many reasons.
I have heard plenty of people say that they would never give money to a beggar because most of them aren’t really homeless and they are only going to spend it on alcohol or drugs.

A couple of years ago I was coming home from work and this day we’d had a party for the kids as it was just before Christmas. There was some food left over, nothing much, some sausage rolls, a few sandwiches and other party snacks and I was taking it home rather then waste it.
As I was coming out of the station there was a couple sat begging.
I don’t ignore anyone, even if all I say is sorry I have no cash I think at least I’m acknowledging they’re there and not invisible.
So I said to these people that I didn’t have any money but I had this bag of food which they could have. They were so grateful, it really took me by surprise and kinda proves the point that not all are begging for money to fund habits.
Sometimes they just need what you and I take for granted.

I often saw them there after that and they never asked me for money but they always said hello.
More then once I gave them my lunch.

I know that there are young people out there who choose to live on the streets because it’s preferable to living at home, and when you’re a 14 year old whose run away you can’t claim benefits or go to an adult shelter. If you’re lucky you’ll find your way to social services, or they’ll find you, but there are still young people who fall through the net and end up involved in very bad situations.
Some don’t want to speak to social services because they are afraid they will be forced to return home or that they will have to prosecute their harmer.
Bearing in mind they’re already scared before they run some would rather take their chances on the street.

I don’t make a habit of giving money to beggars, I tend not to have much cash on me anyway - who does when you can pay for pretty much anything by card, I gave that guy some money today though.

I buy the Big Issue - it’s actually a good read and not full of adverts or crap about celebrities like most magazines.
And I make a monthly donation to Barnados as they work with kids and that’s an issue that matters to me personally.

It’s not a lot and it doesn’t make me a saint but it does help.

Seriously I think there’s something very wrong when a govenrnent spends millions on the defence budget yet charities have to beg for money.

And if you ask me the definition of obscene is the queen living in Buckingham Palace which has over SIX HUNDRED rooms.
When just down the road there are people living in cardboard boxes.


  1. Everything you write makes me smile.

  2. Thanks Amak, I just hope the people who have marked this 'FAF' are laughing at me giving those kids the sharp end of my tongue and not the plight of homeless people.

  3. WTG! I knew I could count on someone like you as a member of the JUSTICE League.
    Some kids don't really get it. They are way too occupied with the material crap thrown at their faces to bother about compassion.

  4. i appreciate it when people understand the 'person' that is homeless ... it hurts so much when people are cruel to others

    these brats don't know that it could be them on that sidewalk. we're all fragile and nobody every knows where we'll wind up.

    some of us are just lucky enough to not be there ...

  5. I'm always amazed at the amount of contempt people have for beggars. I understand some are awful- ie when we were in chicago, a lady wearing a blue tooth asked my mom for money. But most of them I think are not scamming people- I mean how much money can you get from begging? They obviously have a problem and are asking fellow human beings for help.


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