Don’t give change to homeless people – give to charities instead, outreach workers warn
When you pass a homeless person, handing them a bit of your spare change can seem like the most compassionate thing in the world to do.
But outreach workers are today warning people to keep their change in their pockets, whatever the temptation to help someone with nothing – and instead give it to homelessness charities.
The call from politicians and workers at Ipswich’s Winter Night Shelter and Chapman Centre, both of which support rough sleepers, comes amid fears many homeless people are gripped by drug and alcohol addiction.
Giving rough sleepers change, they fear, will only encourage spending on drink or drugs – whereas if donations are made to charities, it can go towards shelter to keep people safe and warm.
And some have even gone as far to say that if people – however well-meaning – give cash to rough sleepers, they could be unwittingly encouraging homeless people to make money on the street, rather than find shelter.
Julia Hancock – business manager of the Selig (Suffolk) Trust, the charity behind the Winter Night Shelter – said: “If I could get the public to understand one thing, it’s that giving money to homeless people can mean they won’t access the necessary support.
“There are people that won’t make use of all that’s on offer because they are getting too much money by spending the day begging.
“I find that incredibly sad. Everyone is giving money and doing it for all the right reasons, but the reality is that no-one has to pay to stay in a hostel.
“In my experience, everyone who is begging is begging to fund a habit.
“If I could stand next to people all day then I would. I know people mean well, but it’s really sad when someone says I don’t want to stay with you because I earn too much on the streets.
“Instead of being warm, safe and having a bed, they are out there.”
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has previously also urged people to think carefully about how they spend their money.
Even though he said not giving cash directly to rough sleepers is “not absolutely a hard and fast rule”, he said: “In most cases, most homeless people have had issues in their lives which relate to addictions of one sort or another.
“If you give cash to someone who is seriously addicted, the likelihood is that they will spend money on the thing they are addicted to.
“If you give cash to a homeless person, it’s extremely unlikely you’re going to be giving them enough to find housing.
“The only thing they can spend it on is something to take away the pain.
“They need to be finding somewhere to stay, rather than taking away the pain – and the best way to do that is to support charities which can help them to find somewhere to stay.”