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Direct approach begging

(105 Posts)
Imperfect27 Fri 21-Jul-17 13:22:31

I know live a pretty sheltered life. I seldom encounter homeless people unless I visit a nearby city, but then I do respond and I always give something to street collections too.
Last night I met a best friend for a meal out. We elected to sit outside as it was such a mild evening and the terrace was on the high street. We were the only ones sitting there when a man came up to us and handed us a flier. He didn't speak initially and I just thought he was advertising something local - there was a street theatre production unfolding in front of us at the time too. However the flier - which was badly printed - explained that he and his family are financially in need of support. It also depicted two girls.
I think I went through a whole range of emotions - surprise, discomfort (embarrassment?) guilt, confusion ... as it gradually dawned that he was directly asking for money. Like me, I could tell my friend felt vey uncomfortable. We both gave him some coins and my friend tried to engage him in conversation to say he needed to seek financial assistance from the local authority. He said "I only speak French!" in a way that simply closed down conversation and he seemed angry. He looked 'foreign' - it went through my racing mind that he might be an illegal immigrant. Once we had handed over the money, he also indicated that he wanted the fliers back. I doubted if he was 'genuine' as did my friend, but we felt we had given him the benefit of the doubt. We saw him stopping people up and down the high street several times over the rest of the evening.
I just felt so taken aback and, to be honest, quite intimidated at the time.
Anyone else had this type of experience?

Iam64 Fri 21-Jul-17 13:43:21

Most city dwellers come across aggressive begging, or the kind of incident you experienced. I buy a Big Issue but stopped giving to street beggars a long time ago. My city is Manchester, we have charities supporting rough sleepers and I donate to them, rather than donate to some poor persons drug or alcohol fund.

I wonder if the restaurant owner knows about this beggar? Most restaurants, cafes or pubs wouldn't want their customers put through your experience.

I hope I don't sound too Ms Judgeypants, I'm as distressed as the next person about the growing number of homelessness, drug and alcohol dependence but I no longer feel handing over cash is helping .

rosesarered Fri 21-Jul-17 13:49:49

In a cafe in Oxford, two traveller women were allowed ( the staff saw and didn't intervene) to wend their merry way around the tables begging while people tried to eat their meals.I didn't give them anything and my DH told the staff as we left that we wouldn't be coming in there again,they looked embarrassed and just nodded.I think they were afraid of the women.
Imperfect you probably did right, in case he turned nasty ( you never know.)

devongirl Fri 21-Jul-17 13:56:22

roses can I ask which restaurant? Going to Oxford at weekend would prefer to avoid.

Jalima1108 Fri 21-Jul-17 13:58:07

I did give something to a young man outside a theatre I went to recently who was sitting on the pavement with his dog but I was told off by my much younger companions - they said 'he will just go and shoot it up his arm'. So was I right to give or not?

I always give to the local Big Issue seller (a lovely man with a nice smile, from Romania I think).
And I have been intimidated into giving in the nearest city but that was quite a while ago now.

Blinko Fri 21-Jul-17 14:06:28

I don't give directly to beggars as I believe it encourages the practice. I live near Birmingham and have seen street beggars board the evening commuter train back home. So street begging must pay, mustn't it? I much prefer to donate to charities for the homeless.

Jalima1108 Fri 21-Jul-17 14:07:47

It was interesting that the thirty-somethings I was with were less tolerant and would not have given to the beggar.

rosesarered Fri 21-Jul-17 14:10:23

Devongirl I have pmd you, as didn't want any staff to get into trouble.

Ilovecheese Fri 21-Jul-17 15:40:51

My city is also Manchester, the advice from the council is not to give money directly but to one of the charities, so that is what I do. Shopping this morning saw four homeless people plus the Big Issue seller. (just local shopping, under an hour) It is a quandary I know. One of the beggers was a woman and I didn't really know what to do, but I thought what if she just has to hand over the money to some gangmaster, so I didn't give her anything. I don't know if I was right or wrong.

annsixty Fri 21-Jul-17 15:47:09

My GD and I are going to London for 2 days in a couple of weeks.
I am a bit scared of beggars as I am very old and she is young but I think we will just use taxis in spite of the cost. Safety is important to me now.

Ilovecheese Fri 21-Jul-17 15:50:18

I will just add that even though we have a large number of homeless and beggars in our city, I have never been approached with aggression, so maybe not worry so much.

Greenfinch Fri 21-Jul-17 15:50:19

If they have a dog I go into the nearest supermarket and buy some dog food for it.It is not always received very gratefully.😸

Charleygirl Fri 21-Jul-17 15:57:24

I agree Greenfinch I have done that and also bought a sandwich but from the look he obviously wanted hard cash so that he could convert it into alcohol or drugs.

I live in London and never nowadays give to anybody unless it is eg well known charities at supermarkets but I feel uncomfortable walking past because I cannot donate to everybody.

Imperfect27 Fri 21-Jul-17 16:07:26

I used to be married to a vicar and we were used to people coming to the door in need. We always offered them food and drink and on some occasions H would drive them somewhere or buy a train ticket for them if travel was clearly the issue. We never directly gave money and that approach sorted out who was really needy.

I don't usually give money directly to homeless in the street, but will 'pay forward' in a café /buy food / Big issue etc. and support a homeless charity. In this instance I was just so taken by surprise and felt intimidated - it was beyond my experience.

It was an Ask café in Canterbury. I didn't think to report it.

When I got home DH said I should have said 'No' and I did see younger people in the street handing back the fliers and shaking their heads. Part of the problem for me was that we were seated in a corner and he came and stood in front of us so we were a bit blocked in. As we watched him walk away, I noted that he was actually quite well dressed in a clean / smart pair of jeans, jacket and newish looking trainers which made me think he wasn't genuine - but then it is so easy to judge and not know ... I suppose on balance, we didn't give him much between us - not more than £5 and it may be that he really did need it!

Ana Fri 21-Jul-17 16:11:55

Pity one of you wasn't fluent in French - that would have floored him!

Imperfect27 Fri 21-Jul-17 16:21:29

Ana - I wish! I did start to flounder for a few long-forgotten, but possibly half-useful phrases, but it all happened so quickly! Mind you he didn't seem to have an accent either ...

Elrel Fri 21-Jul-17 16:39:50

Blinko - anyone in Brum who wants to support genuinely homeless people can look at Birmingham Homeless Outreach. For several years these volunteers have been going out each night to provide food and hot drinks. They also collect and distribute bedding, warm clothes and toiletries. They know the city centre homeless as people, call them by their names and ask how they are. BHO is quietly doing good work and the people they help can trust them.
They are able to make an accurate assessment of how many rough sleepers there actually are in the city. I think their work is impressive. They are on Facebook.

callgirl1 Fri 21-Jul-17 16:45:18

The other week in town, there was a man sitting on the ground begging, just outside the Co-op. A very nice elderly lady came out of the shop to him, holding a packaged sandwich and a hot drink from a machine, which she offered to him, and he turned them down, was adamant that he didn`t want them. Then last week, outside another shop, a young, quite scruffy, man walked up, sat down on the pavement, and "set his shop out", blanket, cap on the ground for money, but he was wearing brand spanking new trainers!

PamelaJ1 Fri 21-Jul-17 17:42:44

My friends DD works for a homeless charity in Norwich. Her Advice to us was. No money and no food.
Generous people do buy sandwiches and tea/coffee but sometimes the begger has already been given more than enough. She advised us to donate to the homeless charities that provide facilities and soup kitchens.
We now donate our clothes to the homeless. Some of them have such sad stories.

harrigran Fri 21-Jul-17 18:03:10

I was pushed against a shop window in our town centre, the beggar was really aggressive and demanded money because he said he could see I could afford it. I often wonder how he came to the conclusion, the pair of trainers I had on were no better than his.
I think you were right to be uncomfortable, his approach was aggressive.

SueDonim Fri 21-Jul-17 19:35:01

Someone I know in Kent gave money to a beggar who approached her in Margate. Before she could turn round, she was surrounded by more men, all aggressively demanding money from her. She was very frightened and said she'll never go back to Margate after that experience.

vampirequeen Fri 21-Jul-17 19:43:07

We never give to beggars. Instead we give food to the local food bank and homeless charity.

We were in Doncaster not long ago and saw a group of young men drinking coffee and chatting. They then split up. Later we saw some of them begging at different locations. A busker told us they were part of a gang who go to different town centres every day.

Jalima1108 Fri 21-Jul-17 20:11:56

A friend was collecting nice toiletries for the local women's refuge and I thought that was a very good idea.

phoenix Fri 21-Jul-17 20:24:39

When I had a job that involved travelling to London, I remember when I was smoking a cigarette outside Paddington Station, being approached by quite a well presented young man who said "as you can probably tell, I'm homeless".

I offered to take him into the M&S Food, just a few yards away, and buy him a sandwich and some fruit.

He ran off!

GillT57 Fri 21-Jul-17 21:25:52

By co-incidence, I have just read an article in our local paper; the main charity dealing with homeless people in the town has asked that people donate to them rather than give loose change or food to people on the street. Although well meaning, a sandwich and a hot drink could be the fourth or fifth that morning and thus unwanted and a waste of money. The charity estimated, based on what their clients tell them, that around £330,000 is given by members of the public; they have asked for some of that to be given to them instead in order that they can direct help properly and to those who need it.