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Should you give homeless people money?

Should you give homeless people money? The nation was well and truly divided last week after Gloucester City Council released new posters questioning the appropriateness of giving money to people on the streets. The poster, which is headlined “Are You Really Helping Homeless People?”, has offended many with its implications that not all those that are on the streets are genuinely homeless. The poster goes on to suggest that people wanting to help should donate to charities and report their concerns to StreetLink.

As the leading homeless charity in Southend we wanted to reassure you that our biggest concern is for those that we support; people sleeping rough can often feel invisible, but a quick chat, and some food (if they’re hungry), can help improve self-esteem, which could be a crucial step towards a new life away from the streets. However, as with all aspects of life, caution must always be applied when approaching a stranger. Homelessness can be very traumatic and is often a symptom of a deeper issue. This is why the support that we provide at HARP to help people with their wider issues is so important to help people overcome homelessness for good. It is through the provision of a wide range of professional services that we are able to successfully support people to move back to independence which is why your continued support is so important.

For more information from our perspective about what to do when approached by a rough sleeper or someone asking for money, why not read our full guide Don’t Just Walk By.

HARP support over 1,000 people a year, all of whom are either homeless or at risk of being homeless, and we provide over 60,000 meals each year, this includes a cooked breakfast for rough sleepers which is available at our day centre in York Road. Here, rough sleepers also have access to shower facilities, a clean change of clothes, an opportunity to see a nurse or attend a self-help group, plus meaningful activities, rehabilitation and most importantly, someone who cares. Plus, you can be rest assured that we spend all the donations we receive wisely and responsibly to ensure they stretch as far as possible and meet the needs of those in crisis.

So is it okay to give money to a homeless person? That’s completely your choice, but in our experience what people need is real change, not loose change. Showing care and compassion to those in crisis is a wonderful thing to do; but please be careful and remember that not everyone that asks for money is homeless, and not everyone that is homeless is out on the streets asking for money.

For around the cost of just five shop bought coffees you could help to fund a night in our emergency accommodation and also help us provide the professional support that we know keeps people away from a life on the streets for good. John, who is turning his life around with HARP recently told us “giving a pound to someone on the streets may ease your conscience, but giving someone some time and courtesy can make a bigger difference. If you want to help, support the charity that can give genuine help; help the people that help homeless people. HARP have been a lifeline.”

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