I sit here writing this post and I wonder just how many people will be writing posts about poverty for Blog Action Day and yet still ignore a homeless person? I know a lot of you will protest about that point of view. “Hell, it’s just Furie being cynical again.” Want to bet on that? Remember the tsunami a few Christmases ago? The local supermarket by us had buckets at the tills where anyone could donate. Those buckets were full and getting emptied more than once an hour according to the girl at the counter. I stood outside that supermarket before going shopping and afterwards and watched dozens (perhaps hundreds) of shoppers walking past a homeless guy, ignoring him, treating him like he wasn’t even there. The same shoppers who reached deep into their pockets in the store to help when others were watching wouldn’t even look at someone right next to them who was asking for help. Gotta love humanity eh?
“He’ll only spend it on booze/drugs.”, “They’re just ungrateful/lazy.”, “It’s their choice that they’re homeless.”
Things I’ve heard said about beggars this week.
I remember quite a while back I’d moved into a shared house and one of the guys already living there welcomed me to the house with a good (and I mean GOOD) bottle of brandy. We sat up most of the night chatting, smoking and drinking. He told me a little about his life. How he’d been homeless for years, begging for money, scrimping and saving, trying to survive. He made me realise that where I could spend ten to twenty pounds on a week’s food shopping, that wouldn’t really go as far on the streets. Without a roof over his head and somewhere to actually cook food he had to rely on fast food if he wanted it hot. Obviously that costs more than buying something fresh or frozen and cooking it when you get hungry. I learned things like that I’d never realised before about being homeless. And then he thanked me.
Turns out a couple of years before I’d been having a good week at work, gotten a load of tips, and was generally doing quite well for myself. I’d spotted a homeless guy outside McDonalds and not only bought him a meal, but slipped him £50 as well. Now here I was sipping brandy with the same guy, having him tell me how that money had been the final amount needed to get him a place to live. How he’d saved up so much but winter was starting to scratch away at it. How after he’d gotten a place that had lead to a job, and the job had lead to a better place. In the end he’d gotten the biggest room in that house and always wanted to thank the guy who helped him out. And we stayed up all night talking far past the end of that bottle.
Writing a post about poverty helps out very little. Even when masses of us do it, nothing helps as much as actually helping. When you see someone who needs help, don’t ignore them, don’t excuse yourself by convincing yourself they’ll spend it on booze or drugs. Even if someone does make the wrong choice, at least you can do the right thing.