OUR collective attitude to homelessness seems to ebb and flow with the political tide.
Should we give money to an obviously homeless person sitting looking defeated on a chilly pavement? Should we only give to charities for the homeless?
Some businesses solve this well by only making donations to accredited homeless charities. Two we have in Bolton – Bolton Young Person’s Housing Scheme and Urban Outreach – are amazing, well-organised and run and very effective.
However, another group of ladies who run the Sunday Street Kitchen informally are also fantastic. They get donations of food, make hot food and distribute this and packed lunches to homeless people every week.
It’s easy to both applaud and support what these dedicated groups do. We can see the results and we know that our cash is being used properly and in the way we intended.
More difficult is the matter of giving money directly to a homeless person sitting so sadly with an empty collection cup and an air of hopelessness.
Unfortunately, because there has been media coverage about professional beggars, sometimes this flits across the mind, holding people back from popping £1 or some silver into the cup.
Then there is advice surfacing every now and again from various homeless charities saying don’t give to people on the street, just donate to official organisations.
All this said, it’s hard to pass someone you feel needs help and not react. I’ve often given automatically and sometimes popped into a nearby bakery and brought a cup of coffee and a pie for them to have something hot on a freezing day.
There’s a feeling of “there but for the grace of God go I” and sheer humanity. It’s not a perfect situation and it can pose a dilemma – but this is a fellow human being.