Conservative-run Gloucester Council has brought out posters asking people to think very carefully before giving change to the homeless. These point out that as you walk past, you can’t differentiate between the homeless and professional beggars. You won’t know if your change is going towards food and shelter, or helping to fund someone’s drug or alcohol consumption, or is just being sucked up by petty dishonesty. Instead, Gloucester wants you to show your concern by contacting the homeless outreach team when you see someone you think might be sleeping rough or by giving your money to a recognised charity.

This doesn’t insult the genuinely homeless or deny their existence. It’s simply asking how sure you can be about how your money might be spent and suggesting the best ways to give help. To many who have worked with street people, this is nothing controversial. But not to Gloucester Labour Party, who seem to believe that the council is libelling those who are in need, that the posters aren’t just wrong but part of a disgusting campaign that ‘demonises’ homeless people.


Dig deeper into the conversations Corbynistas have among themselves on social media and you will see even stronger reactions. One member of the Facebook group ‘Supporting Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’ responded by posting a picture of skeletal Nazi concentration camp prisoners, with text telling us that the camps ‘didn’t start with gas chambers’, but with politicians ‘dividing people into us and them’. Then through ‘intolerance and hate speech’ desensitising people so they ‘no longer care and turn a blind eye’. So there you are. When a council asks you to think about the best way to help rough sleepers, it’s the first step on the road to Auschwitz.

You might think that linking an attempt to deal with social problems with Nazi death camps would be seen as going too far. That even if the comrades thought the posters were wrong or clumsy, they would see that making your point with pictures of concentration-camp victims went beyond reasonable debate or decency. That respect for those victims would prevent us from using their memory in such a way. No. There was no rebuke. Quite apart from collecting various ‘likes’ for the picture, it went unremarked among the other comments suggesting that anyone who questioned begging was contemptible and vile.

Addiction and rough sleeping are horrible, intractable problems where generalisations are best avoided. I’ve been a volunteer for a homeless hostel and also worked in central London (in a paid role) dealing with many ex-rough sleepers. I have never been homeless myself, but from what seems like another life, a very long time ago, I spent a couple of years as a user of many the services that street people depend on. I’ve been through some of the same hospital wards, police cells and drying-out units from the wrong side of the desk and sat in the same Soho doorways at 4 in the morning. I’ve met countless homeless, near-homeless and ex-homeless people and I wouldn’t want to demonise anybody. I just want to be realistic. I no longer automatically believe that handing over my bit of money to the guy sitting under the sleeping bag will necessarily mean it gets well spent.

Of course the tragedies are real, the deaths from exposure and neglect. Of course we have a duty to people in desperate circumstances, but will my coins just help maintain someone’s chaotic lifestyle and encourage them to stay in misery? Am I helping pay for a meal or for the next purchase of whatever chemical is slowly killing that person? And if you really believe that a heroin user or street drinker who actually might have a home and financial support would recoil at the idea of posing as homeless to extract loose change from the charitably inclined: well, God bless your innocent trusting heart. This is not about moral judgements. Addiction and the grim life of petty hustling that can go with it make for a miserable existence that deserves compassion. But addiction can shred the better things in your character including your honesty. Ask any ex-addict.

There are plenty of charities who can use your money far more constructively than if you just put it in the next outstretched hand or styrofoam cup on the pavement. Some specialist charities such as Thames Reach are emphatic that any money given to people on the street just helps kill the recipient. I actually think they are a little too certain on this – there are always exceptions. But in general, I keep my change in my pocket unless it’s a collecting tin for a good charity such as the Salvation Army who often take on the cases that many others won’t or simply can’t deal with. And of course, for anyone who really wants to do something, there are plenty of organisations doing excellent work in the field who need volunteers. It’s not just your money that can do good. Your time and interest in people can sometimes be far more valuable.

But never mind these complexities if we can enjoy our moral outrage at the wickedness of those uncaring Tories. The suffering of street people makes a handy weapon to beat them with, and if we can link them to the Nazis, well, that’s even better.

26 COMMENTS

  1. asking people to think very carefully before giving change to the homeless. These point out that as you walk past, you can’t differentiate between the homeless and professional beggars.

    The first part of that is very sensible advice, though I’d qualify the second part — it is an acquired skill to be able to discern between the professional, the drug addict, and the genuinely down-and-out … whether short-term or situational or longer-term. I would agree that the “average” man or woman on the street might genuinely not have a clue, and a significant number of beggars are motivated by wants rather than actual needs.

    the idea of posing as homeless to extract loose change from the charitably inclined

    There are some people who despite not being homeless can still find themselves without the ability to feed themselves — but begging does not require pretending to be something that you’re not, and yes to do so is morally corrupt. So I’d suggest a couple of caveats.

    1) The only people that one should basically refuse to give money to are the professional beggars (some of whom might be wealthier than you are) and the hopeless drug addicts. Money will always be badly spent in those cases.

    2) But to refuse to give money because there’s a chance that the person might spend it on something other than what you would personally consider to be a basic need is not always a good choice — sure, buying somebody a sandwich for instance ; especially if it’s something like a big greek or french one constituting a balanced meal of bread, meat, and vegetables ; will always be well-received by any of the more “honest” ones — but THE most important thing that the homeless and other down-and-outs lack is freedom, and this includes the freedom to spend their earnings how they want to, so that refusing to provide them that freedom, on the basis that the money might be spent on tobacco or beer or whatever else non- “essential”, does constitute an extra form of exclusion.

    But yes — these are complex and difficult questions that can be difficult to understand and be acted on appropriately by those lacking experience or wisdom in such matters of street life.

    PS BTW, most homeless people in Europe have mobile phones — this is because mobile phones, especially second-hand, are dirt cheap. They are NOT a “luxury” item reserved to the wealthy, middle, or working classes.

  2. There are plenty of charities who can use your money far more constructively than if you just put it in the next outstretched hand or styrofoam cup on the pavement

    A disappointing number of these organised charities are deeply corrupted and deeply dishonest — in far too many cases, there’s actually very little real difference between giving money to a charity and giving it to a professional beggar.

    Choosing which charities to help and which to shun is about as difficult as choosing which beggar deserves help and which doesn’t.

    Whereas if you can train yourself to understand who is genuinely needy or helpful and who is simply attempting to abuse your confidence, then 100% of what you give directly to someone in need will go to the right place, whereas most of even the good charities will have some degree of operating costs that will reduce that %.

    But — consider your own circumstances ; if you live in an area that is overrun by drug addicts, then giving to charity rather than directly might be a better choice generally. But then, if you live (or work) in such an area, it’s also easier to teach yourself the difference between the addicts and the others who may be present in the area too.

  3. “that the camps ‘didn’t start with gas chambers’, but with politicians ‘dividing people into us and them’.”

    Sounds like a pretty accurate description of the Labour party policies then !

    Readers here would do well to revisit the Fascist Manifesto of Mussolini, print it off and show it to people and ask them which party they think it represents, 95% will tell you they believe it’s todays Labour manifesto !

    More & more I am hearing those on the left saying that it is not only acceptable but desirable to murder their opponents. The state has already allowed the extra judicial killing of one extremist in prison for leaving a pack of bacon outside a Mosque, and attempted to murder Tommy Robinson.

    We aren’t all that far away from those death camps already, and as you might expect it’s the Fascist Left who are advocating them.

  4. When I see the exorbitant salaries paid to people who “dedicate their lives” to working full-time as employees of charities it makes me more likely to give to a beggar. I see the local food bank has to pay a subscription to a central organisation (which is a family owned business) to be allowed to operate!

  5. It can indeed be a nightmare trying to find the proper way to help those in genuine need, while filtering out the fraudsters. Many years ago I was young, naive and living in a London full of beggars. For a while, until I learned my lesson, I made the mistake of trying to help what appeared to be down-and-outs. I once passed a group of rough sleepers, of whom only one seemed to be awake – or conscious. I offered him some money, only for all the rest to suddenly come to life and surround me, demanding more with menaces. On another occasion I tried to help an old woman who said she wanted to get to a shelter along the road, but she had difficulty walking. She seemed safe enough so I tried to help her physically, but as soon as some other people passed us she started shouting that I was attacking her. I barely escaped without a beating.

    After that, I gave up. It is hard to walk straight past people lying on the pavement, but I firmly believe it is best left to those who have much greater knowledge of these problems and are better equipped to deal with them, and with proper back-up. The genuine cases of destitution will most probably have at least one serious mental health issue underlying their situation, and as a layman you will not have any idea of what it is or how to deal with it. Others are just thugs or thieves after your money.

    I think it was Nietzsche who said: beggars should be abolished. It annoys one to give to them, and it annoys one not to give to them.

    Presumably this takes me just one step away from being a Nazi?

    • Asked for money for “a cup of tea” my simple tactic has always been to refuse the money but to offer to buy the tea directly. On only one occasion in nearly 30 years has the tea offer been accepted. I had an interesting conversation with a heroin addict, so interesting I bought him a bacon sandwich as well.
      He had started his addiction career with cannabis.

      • … and as a lot of the above mentioned social media warriors would (probably) point out given the chance:

        “Legalise Cannabis – It’s Good For You”.

  6. “but with politicians ‘dividing people into us and them’. Then through ‘intolerance and hate speech’ desensitising people so they ‘no longer care and turn a blind eye”
    The projection and lack of self reflection is astounding, but what else do you expect from people indoctrinated into the cult of identity politics.

  7. So instead of the usual social media frenzy, why can’t we be treated to Labour’s Grand Plan for: a) tackling the homeless problem nationwide once and for all

    b) differentiating between the genuine cases and the professionals?

    Or am I being naive in supposing they’ve got one up their collective sleeve?

    As I’ve said before, every incoming Labour government waves a magic wand and all poverty-related matters get swept under the carpet, so we hear little or nothing about the homeless, the low paid and – hey presto, the NHS is once more the “envy of the world” These issues haven’t really gone away of course, it’s just how Labour always spin things.

    • The very existence of professional beggary in itself quite simply proves that socialist ideology is just hogwash — where opportunity exists for people to gain profit, they will take it, no matter how much social welfare you try and put in place to make it “unnecessary”.

  8. politicians ‘dividing people into us and them’.

    Labour and the unions have been doing that since year dot. Its one of their main weapons.

  9. These are the smear tactics of Momentum and if the Tories can’t see that and devise a proper strategy for countering them then they are even more stupid than their recent activities suggest. They have to attack the opposition as Gordon Brown did relentlessly when he was PM. If they remain on the defensive they will always be reacting to Labour making the narrative. They need to get dirt on Momentum and publicise it relentlessly, ignoring Labour’s inevitable hypocrisy which will accuse them of playing party politics. They need to seek out and highlight Labour scandal and sleaze, their spokespersons should be demanding to know why the BBC downplay such revelations. They need to go after journalists, Marr to start with, and question the BBC’s lack of impartiality.

    It would be very simple to announce a public inquiry into BBC bias and fake news but it would require a boldness and courage to weather the inevitable storm that they don’t seem to possess. May can either repeat the “dead man walking” days of the Major regime and look forward to a Corbyn landslide or get her act together and go on the offensive. That old Tory complacency of thinking results will speak for themselves and refraining from ungentlemanly conduct won’t work.

    May should bring up Momentum in Parliament, demanding to know of Corbyn what happened to his “kinder, gentler politics” and whether he thinks daubing campaign posters with swastikas is in the spirit of that. She should challenge him as to whether he leads Momentum or Momentum leads him.

    • They have to attack the opposition as Gordon Brown did relentlessly when he was PM

      aaaaah, yes, by such wonderful tactics as attacking little old ladies as being “bigots” …

      So ; how did that work out for him ?

      • What an extraordinary comment! Well, he wasn’t attacking the opposition when he muttered about her was he? I was referring to his Parliamentary performances when despite being PM he always managed to focus critical attention on the Tory opposition.

        • Well, he wasn’t attacking the opposition when he muttered about her was he?

          That little old lady was representative of his grassroots opposition, and that comment about her quite likely cost him his reelection.

          But I do see the error I made in my comment.

          Let me put it differently, sans little old ladies, bigoted or otherwise :

          They have to attack the opposition as Gordon Brown did relentlessly when he was PM

          So ; how did that work out for him ?

          • Quite well judging by the fact that despite being a terrible PM the opposition under Cameron only managed a hung parliament and had to go into coalition with the Lib Dems!

            If you think the passive and defensive Tory strategy is working out for them then good luck with that!

          • Quite well

            aaaaah, are you one of those Corbynistas who think that Jezza “won” the 2016 General Election, or something ?

          • Another extraordinary comment. I was referring to Cameron’s inability to see off Brown in 2010. So drop the Cathy Newman routine.

          • Cameron’s inability to see off Brown in 2010

            Brown survived as PM for 5 days after the General Election 2010.

            What “inabilitity” are you suggesting ?

          • Tories were 20 seats short of a majority, hardly a success.

            So, the “inabilitity” (sic) to win the 326 seats needed for an overall majority,
            against Brown,
            of all people

          • Her Majesty did no such thing. To be fair to Brown he followed the Constitution and seeing he could not form a Government he went to Her Majesty and tendered his resignation and advised her to summon Cameron, which is what she did.

          • Her Majesty did no such thing

            There was a strong rumour, on the day, that she did, given that Brown was by protocol obliged to make an offer of resignation given that he was no longer the leader of the largest Parliamentary Party in the Commons, and had just lost the elections.

            It’s actually one of the few remaining Constitutional Powers of the Monarch (though it’s typically exercised by “The Palace”), to ensure the continuance of Government even in such cases of uncertainty and turmoil as the immediate aftermath of the General Election 2010, and the hung parliament that it produced.

          • The ‘strong rumour’ was wrong and your understanding of the Constitution is ‘limited’. Brown was NOT ‘by protocol obliged to make an offer of resignation given that he was no longer the leader of the largest Parliamentary Party’. Brown remained Prime Minister and it was only when it was clear that he could not command a majority in the House of Commons – the test for that being able to get a majority for a Gracious Speech – that his position became untenable, and in fact the arithmetic was firmly against him. To be fair to Brown, realising that the game was up, he allowed the negotiations between the LibDems and the Tories to conclude before he did offer his resignation to Her Majesty and advised her to summon Cameron. Nothing he did was improper nor incorrect, and I say that has someone who loathes Brown with a passion.

  10. The left know all that however the point of Momentum is not to help the homeless but to gain power to enact their Marxist doctrine. And the best (only) way for them to do that is to paint the opposition (Tories) as evil demons as there is nothing positive about their own policies so they have to make the public think the Tories’ ideas are (much) worse.

    The Tories really need to call this out and counter the narrative from Momentum.

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