Friday 28 October 2011

If the shoe was on the other foot!

A homeless man sits on the stairs of my station exit, he sits in a far corner away from the stampede of the commuters but he remains an inconvenience for us despite our best effort to remain humane and generous, we cannot help but feel he’s in the way not because he physically obstructs our way but because we feel guilty we did not acknowledge his pleas for spare change.

He sits there with two Café Nero cups, one jingles with coins and one I hope has coffee in it but never got close enough to find out, I often make a point of stopping and offering a chocolate bar or a banana or some change with a “promise you won’t spend it on booze?”, but over the years any naïve effort to donate gets eroded by cynicism and distrust and you wound up saying muttering a wimpy cowardly sorry

How many of us walk by a homeless person every day and how many of us give generously or give at all? And moreover do you even notice them or have they become part of the background for you like the red telephone box or the Big Issue guy.

I often think, if I lost my job and had no money to pay rent and no where to go, would I not become homeless? How many out there are one pay-check away from being homeless?
Nobody is safe from homelessness; we might be lucky we have friends to count on and still have parents we can run back to, but a lot of people are not be so lucky and empathy is not everybody’s cup of tea…

What have you done to help a homeless lately? Do you feel it’s your duty to help? Most people believe the people on the street are homeless by choice or as a result of their substance abuse and addictions or for being ostracised by their friends and families, we are too busy judging instead of helping them.

Though we judge them and ignore them sometimes, we do have a kind of relationship with them, there is always a local homeless everybody gets to know, squatting by the cash point near Tesco or by the Tube station, cuddling up to his dog, the dog has a dummy or a cuddly toy and they sit there with their sad faces, making us (maybe it’s just me) melt at this sight and dig a little deeper into our pockets or lunch boxes. When you think you’ve given enough for the day or not in a charitable mood, you say sorry and it always amazes me how they remain polite (in London anyway) and smile and say thanks, God bless. Thank you for acknowledging them.

You know what I think, I think the homeless community in London specifically hold secret policies about how to be a London homeless, they seem to all be in agreement about how to treat us “punters”, they know being rude or ungrateful wouldn’t work, so their “elders” must have sat down and decided on what’s the best way to do it, after all a homeless person can only be saved by person who isn’t.

You might have had a different experience walking down Edgware road or some other street where a number of beggars (they are not actually homeless) who work the streets cradling babies and begging for cash to supposedly buy nappies and milk or get a train home or save enough for a night in the shelter etc… when you say sorry they either follow you until you cave in or they slur profanities or even spit at you (that’s assault you know), these organised gangs of professional beggars I do not empathise with or even acknowledge, because there have been reports (according to Westminster Council) of growing numbers of professional beggars who earn up to £300 in tax free cash a night to supplement their day jobs or re-do their kitchens (daily mail – I don’t read it I promise).  Thus ruining it for the genuine homeless and needy people who actually in the streets freezing to death, but if you are a well-meaning giver you have to learn to make the difference and make sure your hard earned money is being put to good use.

Dz-Chick …. cursed with empathy



  1. Its not a curse as you say, I think. But I know what you mean.

    There's a kid that works the area on Holloway Road between the Waitrose and the Odeon cinema. When I was there, as often as I could, I would give him a poke (figuratively). He always sits on the ground, and every time I passed, I'd let him know that I thought standing up was better. He said he would try but never did, which gives an insight to what he thought of my advice on how to beg better. I'm sure he always used the money for something other than food, the pallor and the gaunt eyes told me so - his decision.

  2. He doesn't want your advice only your dosh!
    I decided no more cash unless it's 20 pence, from now on I am only contributing to their 5 a day and hand out bananas etc or some dog food for their pets!

  3. I like your empathy dec
    I try to help out when i think they're genuine too
    Brava girl

  4. Thanks anon
    I feel the same obviously :)

  5. wow astonishing how you're readership actually don't give a shit about homeless people but rushes to your single lady's stories :)

  6. Hi Azz, I see that yes, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt..people always look for entertainement or something more personal to read...anythin slightly thought provoking can be off putting and tiresome!

  7. yeah it feels like your article is sitting on a stair of your blog and sorry people are passing by but feeling too awkward to drop their 2cents *trying to make the story more personal*

  8. This post is such a deep one....multi-layered lady. I can hear Phil Collin's voice (Another day in Paradise):

    Unfortunately we got immuned to the sight of the homeless in London although they are not as numerous as those in Paris (half of the damn population, scary shit, no lie!), we are doubtessly losing humanity.

    My children bring it to my awareness by showcasing their altruism each time they pass a beggar and part from some of their money.If they don't have any, they will plead with me to make a donation. Children are definitely here to show us the way!

    My mother never gave money to the homeless by fear they will use it on alcohol however she gave sadaka by providing them with food.
    I personally don't have an issue with their alcohol consumption as it does keep them warm so it's not negligeable.

    Thank you DZ-Chick for writing about such a big issue (yes I did go there, ha ha)and alarming us about our obliviousness.


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