Homelessness: To Give or Not to Give
A question that gets asked a lot is, ‘what is the best thing I can do to help the homeless?’
Is handing over money the best thing to do, or is that just making the situation worse?
Homelessness is such a visible problem nowadays that it’s hard to ignore. In the UK, housing charity Crisis reports how there are no existing figures for exactly how many people have no home, as many homeless people just don’t show up in official figures. Walk around Liverpool at night and you will see anything between 30-60 rough sleepers scattered across the town centre. One thing that’s clear, is that numbers of rough sleepers are increasing, and with young people set to lose their housing benefit under next years proposals, the situation doesn’t look like it will improve without drastic action.
It’s a massive issue that needs dealing with, but on a personal level we can all help in our own way. Some brilliant stuff is going on, like the women in London who have set up a shop that sells nothing. People can go in and buy hats, gloves, dog treats and dog food which will be distributed directly to rough sleepers. Last week in Liverpool, a bunch of dog groomers spent a night freshening up the dogs of our homeless, and each night of the week various street teams can be seen trundling through town with shopping trolleys full of sandwiches and hot drinks to give to those who need it most.
Speaking to rough sleepers and finding out their stories shows how there is always a glimmer of hope. One homeless lady saved up the coins she had been given on the street to pay for her first months rent on a cheap house. All those people who threw change into a paper cup will have no idea how much impact they have made on her life. Another man is currently on a waiting list for temporary accomodation, and tries to scrape enough money each day from people who pass by so that he can pay for a bed in a hostel.
So next time you ask yourself what is the best way to help, just do what your heart tells you. If that means buying a copy of The Big Issue, handing over a cup of tea or giving a pound to someone who has found themselves in a bad situation, just do it. Give with a smile, and no judgement. One homeless person is one too many, and sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can have the biggest impact.
By Michelle Langan