Does giving money to people begging on the streets help alleviate or perpetuate the problem? These were the questions being asked by a mother and her daughter on the street I was walking down on Friday evening. The daughter wished to give money to a person begging on the street however her mother didn’t think it was a good idea, saying that not everyone who begs is homeless, and not all homeless people will beg. Since 2011, more than 9,000 people are sleeping on the streets of Britain at any given time. We’re increasingly aware that people are forced to spend their nights in the cold, and it’s natural to want to give money to people on the streets. But there’s a lot of confusion about how to help homeless people.
This morning I was fortunate enough to meet with different charities and organisations that contribute to Real Change, a fund for Rochdale people that pays for items needed to end and prevent homelessness and support those who are homeless because of mental health, alcohol, or gambling issues. Their ‘alternative giving model’ allows members of the public a direct way to give money, other than on the streets.
John is one of the people Real Change Rochdale has helped. He moved into a house after long periods of rough sleeping and finding shelter in a hostel, however the house was freezing cold and he had no money. John’s house was in a new area and was far away from his friends and support network. The fund paid for money to go on his gas meter so that John felt at home and didn’t go back on the streets.
Real Change also helped Paul, a pensioner on the verge of being evicted from his home of 30 years due to debts built up on his rent after problems arose with his health. Paul had few family or friends who could provide support, so aside from providing financial assistance the Real Change campaign was able to work together with partners to ensure he didn’t fall through the gaps and end up homeless.
By donating on their website, the money goes directly to people who need it, and used for that purpose by charities and organisations who have access to the fund. Not a single penny goes to salaries for running the campaign, because the partners have committed their time and resources to run the campaign for free. Thanks to the donations given to Real Change, people like John and Paul have a place to turn to and it only strengthens my belief in people’s commitment to care for others.
There are other charities in Rochdale and Greater Manchester who are there to help the homeless, and many people donate directly to them, but you can donate to Real Change by visiting their website: www.realchangerochdale.co.uk
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on Friday 9th August 2019