WHEN I NEEDED A NEIGHBOUR – THOUGHTS ON BEGGARS AND HOMELESSNESS
Both my wife and I receive disability benefits. She because of an Industrial accident while at work in a local hospital. Mine dates back to 1978 while working in Norwich as aYouth Officer. In our world there are many like us who aren’t scroungers but who appreciate a ‘hand up’ and are grateful for this.
My regular visits to Tesco make me aware that within the UK there are many who are hungry. There’s a big cage for food gifts as you come out of the store. Tesco is involved with the Trussel Trust (see www.Leicester South.foodbank.org.uk.the trussell trust) How sad that the World War II dreams of William Beveridge and Nye Bevan lie in tatters, as our welfare state stutters and struggles. Mrs Thatcher said during the miners’ strike ‘hunger was a good motivator”. Personally have always supported strong social structures, and this comes through personal experience, having worked for seven years in the Department of Employment in Coventry during the late 80s. I appreciate that my granddaughter’s school offers breakfast to the children. The idea is that they can begin the day with food in their bellies.
I love the poem by Stoddert Kennedy called ‘Indifference’. Stoddert Kennedy was an Anglican priest whose nickname was ‘Woodbine Willie’ because he handed out cigarettes to soldiers in the trenches during the First World War. His poem pictures Jesus sitting on a pavement in Birmingham begging for food. In my mind Jesus is an ex soldier. I don’t know the story of the many beggars on the streets of our city. I am sure for some life has been very hard. I appreciate the policy of the Leicester Council which says that anyone made homeless need not spend a second night on the street. There are also many people who seek to help such as the Dawn Centre, One Roof, Leicester and the Community of Grace. The forecast for 2041 is a cause for concern as it is thought that the number of homeless people will double.
A final thought. I read in an internet article on “Islam and begging” that begging as a career is unacceptable.
I watch almost daily our local beggar sitting in the Tesco car park, sometimes starting as early as 7.30am and wonder how we can get him to change. For him too there is a need of a hand up and not a hand out.
Editorial note: This is a huge topic for discussion and the Evington Echo welcomes more letters and articles about homelessness, begging or both.