I’ve been trying to think why Alex Moore’s article on April 23, Giving to Sheffield beggars will only make things worse, bothers me so much.
I think it’s this.
While I understand the logic of the arguments which surround how we can best help vulnerable members of society, I personally cannot walk by them pretending they don’t exist.
I ask them if I can get them a sandwich and a drink.
They tell me what they would like and I fetch it for them.
I know they can all get help from the Archer Project at Sheffield Cathedral, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.
Buying them food does.
We all have labels for different people, it helps us make sense of the world.
But labels also dehumanise.
It is why there is always such a hoo-haa about the ever-changing face of politically correct language.
And while many of us know there are complex reasons why there are people on the streets, calling people beggars simplifies it for us.
The word classes them as undeserving because by definition they want something for nothing.
My father Brendan, brought us up to say hello to everyone we passed in the street.
You might be the only person they speak to all day, he said, you don’t know what’s going on in their life.
So I physically can’t walk by the homeless pretending they don’t exist.
Rightly or wrongly, I help in my own way.
The process of getting them some food means that we at least speak to each other.
If the behaviour patterns of humans were so easy to figure out and change then we’d have found a solution to why people litter.
The culprits come from every socio-economic group.
It isn’t a feckless-poor problem.
And if we get to the bottom of that, then maybe we’ll work out why members of the elite Bullingdon Club, which has includedour own Prime Minister and Chancellor, smash up restaurants for the hell of it.