Homeless people. What to do with them? Whenever I walk past a homeless person without looking at them, helping them or even talking to them, I am hit by a little pang of guilt. What astounds me, is that it isn’t anything more than a fleeting knock and I soon am on my merry way spending my money on things I don’t really need. I find it all too easy to disassociate myself from them with all the trappings of ‘the government gives them lots of money, they’ll probably just buy booze and cigarettes and it’s not my fault’. But when push comes to shove, they are probably going to lie underneath a bridge and I’m going to purchase a milkshake. Surely there is something that I can do?!
Recently I struck gold. At work we needed some posters put up around the town and I was asked to find some friends who would like to earn some pocket money. Bingo. So when ever I saw a homeless person asking for money I told them that I had some work that they could do. I took some phone numbers (this is Australian poverty keep in mind), and agreed to meet people at certain places at certain times. All in all I asked six different people, four were very keen but didn’t show when I needed them, one wasn’t interested and one showed up an hour late. So perhaps it was a fruitless exercise, but I think not. The one who showed up had her 19 month old baby in tow and she’d taken a long tram ride to get there – she was determined and happy to work.
Lots of factors must come into someone being homeless in Australia, and I think it would be too easy and simple to stop helping because a few seem unfavorable. Even though most people that I asked didn’t end up working in the end, I’ve no idea what they are dealing with, or what obstacles held them back from earning some money – mental, financial, or physical. One person did come and work though – which I’m sure made a small, but not negligible impact on her immediate future.
From talking to people who are begging for money I’ve found that they aren’t always homeless and might just need some extra money to get by. I don’t think that just handing it over to them is the answer as it continues the cycle but there are things that we can do. Giving food or advice could prove to be infinitely more valuable. Regardless, at the end of the day we are all people.