Tuesday 28 March 2017


Have you seen the old dear who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags
She's no time for talking, she just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home, in two carrier bags
So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind." 

From Ralph McTell's  -Streets of London

How should we deal with street persons? The homeless? This guest post written by Dan , in London, addresses that issue. Thanks, Dan, for sharing with us.



by Dan

Outside every supermarket in London, there’s a homeless person. I get a lot of my groceries from supermarkets, so I’m always walking past those guys. What they usually do, as you’ll know from your own encounters, is ask for some change.
It’s understandable that some people give them cash because afterall, they’re presenting as homeless and not having a job, so if people don’t give them money to buy food and however many hot drinks they have (if I slept outside, I’d probably want twenty cups of soup a night) then won’t they, like, die, or something?

On the other hand, I read that three quarters of them are on drugs and probably have free access to food and shelter if they want it but all they want to do is buy substances that could eventually kill them and by giving them money, the drugs are pretty much the only thing you’re funding.

So what’s the big deal? Just give them small amounts of money occasioanally. I call it uncertainty-adjusted behaviour. This approach might be viewed as inhumane and overly simplistic though because surely one must take a look at each specific homeless person. Use your eyes. Use your gut. Read some articles. Talk to people and become wise in the ways of charitable donation. Surely. Life is busy for many people though and making time to learn about such specific topics isn’t always top of the list.


Giving food always seems like a good balance. For most people this is probably sensible. I eat so much cr@p though that I do find myself wondering, did that guy really need that chocolate swirl brioche? I mean my diet just about keeps me alive enough to sit around at room temperature, trudge back and forth to a desk job and write sh*t on the internet. Homeless people spend all their time outside in the cold. They need to be on army rations.

Imagine if supermarkets had a section dedicated to those sleeping rough and customers could donate at the point of sale to give them the things that would help them most. The supermarket could even be blatant about it and write “help get rid of the person sitting outside our store” and customers could leave small donations. Then when the donations reach a certain level, the person could be carted off to a hostel and given therapy and noodles and stuff.

I’m not saying that you can fix every problem with therapy and noodles, I just wonder if the supermarkets could be more “in your face” about what they’re doing.

Editor note:
Dan can be found at his blog, that is a good read:

Also on website Medium


Badger said...

Well I just read Dan's blog on "Two carrier bags" and "But out" and I have to say,, in the nicest way,, that I don't agree with either statement, First "Butt out" He is right on one point, and I do the same, That is that it is a natural animal thing to look at women who attract you,, I my case what turns my head is a women who is feminine who walks proud and is dressed respectfully, that can be in a sexy outfit just as well as a full cover up, and with respect it is what Dan expresses is what gets men the label of "dirty old men" and it devalues women, yes you can see women on the beach almost naked as Dan describes, but just because it is on the beach, is that right, no it is not right it gives young people the wrong message and of course they follow suite so the problem gets worse and its just one part of society that devalues respect, moral attitudes etc,, and no I am no fuddy duddy, I love looking at women, but for a different ajenda.
As for Homeless people, sure there is a percentage of druggies out there, but have you ever asked yourself why these people are on the streets in the first place, just think, through circumstances totally out of your control, you could be out there too sooner then you think, O.K. there is an element of them that put themselves out there and have to take responsibility for themselves and live a life that they find acceptable, but there is an element that like this type of life and make a reasonable living from donations, and likewise there is the element who are genuinely homeless and NOT ON DRUGS, I think Dan's statement of 75% of them are on drugs is a poor statement, he has no evidence of that. These people ( who want it ) should be given practical help and not be put down by statements which have no foundation, and no you don't have to give them money as Dan says, and he is correct, they do spend it on drugs if that is their thing, but let me ask you one thing, if you were made homeless and it suddenly becomes apparent that no one cares whether your alive or dead, and no matter what you tried to do to improve your situation, people just reject you or look down their nose at a homeless person, do you not think that you would be on drugs to ease your despair. When was the last time you went and got two meals from a take-away and sat next to a homeless person and gave him one and started a conversation,, why not ? this person is a human being and need companionship as well as anybody, yes he or she will be suspicious, but stick with it because they will open up, I am sorry If my comments hit a raw nerve, but it P?''ES me off when people try to analyse and justify their attitude to homeless people which is nearly always negative, with ignorance, and "not my problem" attitude, Well as a member of this human society, I would not walk past a homeless person without asking them when they last eat or stop for a chat, my conscience would not allow it, my respect for a fellow man who is down on his luck is greater then that, maybe the next time you see someone homeless, go and talk to them, you'll be surprised, by the response, they can actually talk,, amazing.

Running on empty said...

I think this is an important topic and the more discussion on it the better. Homelessness is getting worse here, as the housing values in the cities are in a bubble, one that I'm afraid will burst one day, the flow on effect for our economy will be brutal then, and more will be homeless.

I'm Melbourne the homeless camps in the middle of the city were permanent, until the authorities broke them up at the urging of the media. It was giving tourists the wrong idea , apparently, of the world's " most liveable city". So they have apparently dispersed into the suburbs. Melbourne has very little in the way of crisis accommodation or refuges. Meanwhile the property values keep climbing, so less people can afford homes.

I taught my kids to call the people they gave a coin or food to, "Sir " and "Ma'am " as dignity is a commodity they need.

My hubby used to help cook hot 4 course meals for an organisation in Sydney that was feeding over 900 people per night, behind the Cathedral. It was not a church organisation. I do chat with homeless folk sometimes. One homeless man told me he was asked by a priest not to sleep in a bay of the cathedral fence , out of the wind. He had to move on. At the same time the cathedral was spending a fortune inside, adding more decorative elements at great expense. Although this was giving traditional artisans work, which is good, the heart must be in the church, or what is the point?

One thing we have here that is excellent, is a magazine called the "Big Issue" sold only by homeless people, on the street. It's a great read, and the work gives the sellers dignity.

Fizzfan said...

I used to buy a Big Issue from one particular lad that used to sit outside our office when I worked in the city. We used to chat briefly before I got my bus. One thing I'll never forget is that he always used to say 'Thank you so much Miss'. Like a scene out of 'Oliver'. It used to genuinely upset me that a person with so little could be so polite and grateful to someone like me who'd be going home to a warm house and comfy bed and he'd been sitting around in the freezing cold all day reduced to begging.
Age has made me view the homeless very differently to when I was young. I'm angry there isn't more funding from our Governments and sad that life leads some people down that road, very often through nothing more than unfortunate circumstances.
They do say that the majority of people are only four months missed salary away from being in that self same position themselves.
Lose your job, relationship breaks down, few or no friends or family willing to help out.............
It really can be that simple and that fast.
Most of us have absolutely no idea what it's like to be dehumanised to the extent of being a beggar but all the mechanisms that prevent us from falling into the gutter are not unbreakable and I guess we should all dwell on that more often than we do.

Fizzfan said...

Love the fact you taught your kids to address them as Sir or Ma'am Cath. Just love it.

Running on empty said...

I have not been homeless, but I have come close to it. Unemployment of spouse coupled with being a caregiver caused it. I did starve, though I made sure my children were always fed. I often meet other mothers like that. I did go without electricity.

When my financial situation improved we tried to help the people who helped us , when they needed it. One man who gave my children potato chips when they needed them, and gave my son yard work, went on to have nine strokes in succession, his business deteriorated, and he had to move into a caravan. We helped where we could. It shows that you don't know what is around the corner, "there but for the grace of God go I."

I have been in almost every income bracket . It helps me understand the human condition, we all have so much in common. The well off have problems, as much as the poor do, I can help the wealthy with understanding, and patience, and the poor in practical ways.

Fizzfan said...

I think understanding is often borne out of first hand experience and you've obviously had pause for thought many times in your life. It enriches us all to go without or struggle to provide the basics in life.
I haven't been left in the position of caring for children at the same time but as I moved away from my family when I was young, after a relationship break down, I was left having to pay bills that had once been shared. I was very lucky as my job prevailed throughout and I found paying lodgers to help with those bills.
I often felt in my earlier life that the only constant was my job. Take that away and things could have been very different.
My sons old girlfriends Mother was a Christian and actually took in a homeless person on a permanent basis and her husband got him a job in a care home he worked at.
That's a level of kindness I applaud but simultaneously questioned. Turns out she had a bit of a crush on him.........nonetheless, it passed without incident, and although I'm no longer in touch with her, I would bet he's still in residence.
The children weren't so keen on his presence and it was one of the reasons my sons girlfriend was so desperate to leave home.
Difficult to know what's right and wrong sometimes, (I freely admit I wouldn't even consider housing a stranger in my home) but for those that do, I doff my hat and accept they have bigger hearts than me.

Profound Familiarity said...

I tend to agree with Cath that despite the impact of the '07 crash, there are still housing loan bubbles out there that could burst, as well as other debt bubbles.

I suppose having a crush on someone doesn't necessarily make it any less saintly to be helping them.

Cath, you must have had an interesting life to have been in various income brackets. The more I find out about you, the more entertaining it gets.

Fizzfan said...

Crushes and how it effects actions......hmmmmmm?
I'm an old cynic Dan. I've long recognised that starting triggers in many things can tip the balance in decision making that can appear on the surface to be something quite different.
Nonetheless I still applaud her for doing what she done, but when there were four other resident family members to consider, I'm not sure it was entirely fair, I know it caused a lot of problems, but hopefully the lesson learned turned out to be good one.