Giving money to people begging in the street may seem like a decent generous thing to do, doing your bit to help someone out who is less fortunate than yourself is a selfless thing to do. However on average 90% of all money given to people in the street is spent on drugs or alcohol. This does nothing to help a persons situation but more damagingly it makes it so much harder for homelessness professionals and outreach workers to engage with these people.
Getting someone on a path to sobriety or getting them to reduce their use of drugs and alcohol is almost always the starting point to getting anyone with an addiction motivated to change their lives for the better. Once out of the cloud of addiction it is so much easier to work with people and get them on a path to help themselves. People who donate cash to people in the street are fanning the flames of addiction and doing nothing to help the person long term.
A very small minority of people sitting in the street are professional beggars who often have a finely tuned “story of woe” which they have spent many hours perfecting to pull at the heart strings in order to make people willingly hand over cash, with these people it is always spent on drugs and alcohol. Why does the guy in Stockport town centre sit in the same spot day after day with his dog? its not a particularly comfortable place to sit all day, but it is very close to a pet shop, so lots of people passionate about animals will be passing by. A town centre police officer told me not so long ago that this person had been observed for a period of time and that they estimate that he makes £100 – £150 per day. The benefits agency are also interested in him as none of his “earnings” are being declared against his live benefit claim.
Another local gentleman often targets the more affluent areas of Stockport and in particular he prays upon the elderly. Elderly people in Stockport are some of the most generous people you will ever meet and for anyone to take advantage of them is despicable. This gentleman tells people the same story over and over again, he needs money to pay for his epilepsy medication and that he needs £23 for 2 nights accommodation in a bed and breakfast. He’s even found a whole new level of low recently and has been telling people that he needs money for cancer medication.
Both these people have it within themselves to change their lives for the better and to become free of addiction, they are both fairly young and could have many years of a happy drug free life ahead of them. However if they are getting more money than they can use each day given to them by well meaning people then they will be forever stuck in the cycle of addiction.