Homelessness in the UK has soared in recent years, with MPs and charities have condemned the situation as a “shameful” state of affairs that is nothing short of a “national crisis”.
Over 79,000 households living in temporary accommodation – a rise of 65 per cent since 2010 – and the number of rough sleepers on our streets up 134 per cent since 2011. More than 9,000 people are sleeping on our streets at any given time.
Yet while the public is increasingly aware that thousands of homeless people are forced to spend their nights in the cold, there remains confusion about how to help homeless people. More specifically, when we see somebody sitting on the side of the pavement, should we offer them money?
The views of charities and homeless support groups are mixed. While some advise against giving money directly to rough sleepers, warning that it can fuel addictions, other groups say giving money is often essential to helping homeless people buy the "bare necessities".
The Salvation Army, which offers emergency accommodation on a night-by-night basis in some of their life houses, advises against handing money to the homeless, saying it risks "trapping" people in the "endless cycle" of homelessness and rough sleeping.
A spokesperson told The Independent: “The causes of homelessness are very varied. Often there are several reasons for why someone becomes homeless – from relationship breakdown to mental health issues or job loss. Drugs and alcohol can play a part in homelessness, but it often comes as a result of becoming homeless.
“Rough sleeping is dangerous and cold weather can be very tough for people who are homeless. If you’re worried about someone sleeping rough there are a few things you can do. Buying a hot drink, some food or warm clothing like socks for someone sleeping rough can make a difference.
“We applaud the generosity of the public in wanting to help people directly, but we recognise that providing cash can keep people trapped in the endless cycle of homelessness and rough sleeping, particularly for those who are also battling drugs and alcohol issues. Many homelessness charities, including ours, focus on looking at the root causes of homelessness and offer practical support – donating can help us with our work."
The founder of Streets Kitchen, a grassroots group that operates across the UK to provide soup kitchens and support for the homeless, is of a very different view.
Forty-seven-year-old John Glackin, who has been homeless himself, told The Independent the best way to help rough sleepers is to give them money directly, and that drug and alcohol addicts make up an "absolute minority" or homeless people.
“I would say if you can afford to give money to a homeless person on the street, do it. That person may need that money to buy a jumper, or stay in a hostel. We’re told all these scare stories, but if I gave a pound to a charity, how much of that money actually goes to that person?
“It gives that person the choice. Of course we see spice heads, but they’re absolutely the minority. And if you’re going to give someone out of their face money, you are a bit silly. Have a bit of common sense.
“It’s about people’s bare needs. They might need clothes, underwear. Hostels cost money. They may need to get out of town to go see someone, or get to a food bank. There is a myriad of reasons homeless people need money.”
Read the original article at http://www.independent.co.uk.