The advice of almost every charity is never to give to beggars; in the words of the Big Issue’s founder, John Bird, “It locks the beggar in a downward spiral of abject dependency and victimhood, where all self-respect, honesty and hope are lost.”
Most beggars – as many as 80% – are doing so to fund a drug habit. Better instead to give money to charities, say the charities, so that they can fund drop-in centres and other projects that have a chance of changing the beggar’s life.
There’s something unreal about this position, however: when you have so much more than the person asking for it, refusing money can be hard.No, actually. It isn't. Thousands of us have to do it every day, when we are accosted by obviously-addicted beggars.
What I notice is that the beggar and the begged-from are far less separate than before. Often, a young woman will kneel down to talk to a ragged man or walk out of her way to fetch him a coffee. Friendships of a kind have been formed. Perhaps a feeling is dawning: we’re in the same boat.No, we aren't. And thankfully, we never will be.