Street Change Glasgow's “Alternative Giving” Scheme Shows Contempt for People in Poverty
by Greum Maol Stevenson
While any help for people in hardship is a good thing, this BBC report on an “alternative giving scheme” in Glasgow reeks of classist arrogance.
The article asks, “Should we give money to street beggars?”
Note the “we,” which makes it clear that the article is not to be read by “street beggars,” but by those of “us” who can choose to give “them” money or not. At least the BBC is being honest about who it represents.
It then says:
Big Change, the group behind the Manchester scheme on which the Glasgow initiative is based, believe it is a more effective way to help homeless people. It says while giving money to people begging on the street seems supportive, it doesn't help individuals get away from sleeping rough. It also fails to address the complicated range of reasons which made them homeless.”
Note the assumption that any person who feels they have to beg for money is sleeping rough.
Has a person begging ever asked you, “Can you help me get away from sleeping rough, and can you address the complicated range of reasons which made me homeless?” If so, you're not being obscenely arrogant in taking the attitude of Big Change. If not, you have no right to interfere in their life. Give them the money they've asked for, or don't.
As for the common refrain, “What if they spend it on alcohol or drugs?” That's their business. You don't get to decide what they want, or need, or do. Giving some money to a person begging doesn't buy you authority over them. Try showing them the respect you'd show someone with as much money as you. Try treating them like people, rather than as problems to be fixed.