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Is Giving Beggars Money the Answer? The Homeless in the UK

Take a walk through the streets in most cities, you will likely cross paths with someone asking for spare change. They may be sitting on the ground with a cup and a simple sign, or actively making requests of those who pass by. They may say they are homeless, or are simply down on their luck. But, is meeting these requests the answer?

Homeless Population in England

Recent research has shown that the rate of homelessness in England is on the rise. At this time, an estimated 15,170 household are considered homeless. This is a 10 percent increase from the same time last year.

With the increase being painfully apparent, many feel moved to help. It is challenging to walk past a person who is suffering and not want to do something. The issue is rarely one of a lack of compassion or caring for those living life on the streets. The question focuses on, what is the best way to help, if at all? Does a bit of pocket change help or hurt the person who is receiving it?

Helpful or Hurtful

Negative stereotypes regarding the activities of the homeless make it hard to determine if handing over a few pence is a good idea. There is no way to know for sure how the money will be spent once it is provided. In some cases, research suggests approximately 80 percent of beggars put the funds towards their drug or alcohol habit. If that information is accurate, then giving money to a beggar could be harmful, even fatal.

That does mean approximately 20 percent of beggars may be using the money for other reasons. But begging doesn’t automatically mean the person is sleeping rough. In some cases, those claiming homelessness do have homes. True, some may have fallen on tough times, and are trying to avoid becoming homeless. Others may choose begging over obtaining regular employment.

What You Can Do

If you are inclined to give to beggars, consider alternatives to providing cash. For example, someone who is truly sleeping rough will appreciate some food and a nice cup of tea just as much. If it is cold out, consider bringing along a few simple blankets or scarves to give away.

Anyone with some available time can volunteer with an organization that provides assistance. Soup kitchens and temporary shelters often need volunteers to keep the operation going. Others can use the expertise of individuals from a range of professions to help them coordinate efforts or locate specific services.

For those who prefer to assist monetarily, donate to an organization who provides services to the homeless. Charities can direct the funds to a number of causes. Some work to provide safe, temporary housing for those sleeping rough in the streets. Others help the homeless overcome addiction and find treatment for mental health issues. Further, many of these organizations help those who are down on their luck find work.

These charities look to solve the problems that led to homelessness, helping individuals and family improve their current condition. And, these charities rely on donations to continue their operations. Ultimately, the choice on what to do is always yours. Make the decision that feels right to you, and don’t be afraid to change your mind later should things change.

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