I’ve been thinking about this topic quite a bit recently and particularly in light of the specific issue. I want to address what I think are two general misconceptions that I am reading here and in other similar topics.
First is the issue of homelessness. You do not have to be a rough sleeper to be classified as homeless. Many charities such as Shelter work with the “hidden homeless” or people who are in wholly unsuitable or insecure accommodation. These people have often been rough sleepers and will likely at one point be so again. Let’s not get bogged down on whether someone may or may not have a shelter to lay their head at night. They are all vulnerable people in need of a helping hand.
Second is this preconception that it is bad to give beggars some money. There are some charities and local authorities who strictly advise against but many do not. Charities such as St. Mungos or Centrepoint believe it is a matter of personal choice.
A spokesman for St Mungo’s says they respect people’s wishes to help when they see someone, by buying food, a cup of tea or giving them some cash – but it’s the long-term help that will really make a difference.
Paul Noblet, director of public affairs at the charity, says: “Donating money or food is always a matter of personal choice, but the most important thing is that young people who are sleeping rough get the help they need as quickly as possible."
Paul Noblet is with Centrepoint.
So I’ll put my hand up in the air. I sometime give beggars money. Having lived in London for 30 years, having worked in the past with homeless charities, having friends who still do I feel my judgement on people in true need against those who professionally beg is quite good.
Its a personal choice and one I’m quite comfortable with.
Sometimes I also engage in conversation with the individual. I recognise this is clearly not for everyone to do but it an be helpful. It certainly can help understand circumstances and certainly does away with the need for speculation.
I’m grateful that Sgt Biddle and his team are taking action on vagrancy in Forest Hill, but I also hope their efforts will focus more on those individuals which obstruct our streets, or threaten our community through words or acts, or in the case of this bike person, are acting fraudulently.