The Saturday after my last post I bought a smoothie, some tea, a pasta salad and a flapjack. I found the beggar sitting outside my local supermarket and gave it all to him.
The man wore a grey wool hat. He had a vacant expression in his brown eyes and a straggly brown beard. He wore a scuffed grey overcoat and was sitting on a sheet. I explained that I was touched after watching the programme and hoped it would help. He did not smile or show appreciation with any facial expression but thanked me as he stared vacantly at me. This was not the response I was expecting but perhaps he was just really hungry.
Two men watching told me afterwards that he got picked up in a brand new Audi every day and lived on the other side of the city. Perhaps the Audi driver was his drug dealer that he owed money to, who knows. As I came out of the supermarket I saw him coming out with only the tea as he walked off. Had he just claimed a refund for the items? Or thrown them away?
The next weekend I saw him sitting in his usual spot enjoying a pizza.
I felt a sinking feeling that people appearing destitute might be earning some extra money on the side or for someone else. Indeed, Nottingham homelessness charity Framework warns against giving to beggars as there is no way of knowing where the money is going. This warning came after someone who was not homeless was found with £800 of profits (pictured right). The only way to truly help a street person is to buy a Big Issue magazine or give to charity. I saw a good one called CentrePoint that buys them a room, offers counselling and trains them in skills they need to get work. You get regular updates on their progress. Next time I feel guilty I will give to them.
Homeless people keep half of the profit they make from selling Big Issue magazines and it was an initiative started by a man who used to live on the streets himself. I went further up the road and bought the magazine. The man was called Ronaldo and smiled broadly as he asked how I was. He told me the magazine was £3.50 and kept me talking. When I asked how he was he smiled and said, “I’m good, it’s a nice day, it isn’t raining”. I thought it was inspiring that someone with nothing could be so positive. Later I realised he’d added a pound on to the retail value of the magazine, but I didn’t mind because I knew he genuinely needed it.
The magazine’s slogan was “supporting working, not begging” and the website states it is a “hand up, not a hand out”.
I would rather do that.