April 03, 2007


Apparently some beggars in Central London are taking up to £280 a day! The same money as a GP. The average for begging in London is around £55 a day, more than the average worker in the area takes home.

The problem with many beggars is that many are not actually completely poor, and beg to fund their ever spiralling drug habits, thus diverting money from real homeless into the pockets of drug dealers.

So why don't people give to homeless charities instead of funding this drug habit? Giving to charity will help get the money to the real homeless, those who need it.

I know many people feel guilty after walking past a beggar but please, if you do, give this money to homeless charities, not to the beggars, do not fund drug habits, help people in a better way.

Audrey Lewis, a councillor who is running a 'killing with kindness' campaign to divert money away from beggars, said: "This is not about discouraging people from helping others. It is about educating people so they can support charities that help the homeless rather than indirectly funding drug dealers."

So please please, think about where your money is going before you give to beggars, you may just be funding drugs...



- 27 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Some alternative points of view (in two parts because it’s long):

    So why don’t people give to homeless charities instead of funding this drug habit? Giving to charity will help get the money to the real homeless, those who need it.

    Realistically, how many people will give to a homeless charity instead of giving money to a beggar? I think the answer is not very many. It’s the immediacy of having someone in need in front of you that makes people give to beggars. Once that immediacy is gone they forget or realise they don’t really care that much after all. So the real choice is not between giving money to beggars or giving it to charity, but between giving money to beggars or giving nothing. It seems to me that the purpose of articles like the above (which is incidentally largely quoted from the Daily Mail – you should really link to things you quote from) is to give people a way of assuaging the perfectly natural sense of guilt they feel.

    Apparently some beggars in Central London are taking up to £280 a day!

    We call this “sensationalism”. If this statement indeed has any basis in fact, it is likely that it means that on some sample of how much beggars made in a given day, the largest figure was £280. Is this meaningful? No. It’s not meaningful because it is very likely a freak event. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that most of that probably came from a single large donation by a wealthy individual.

    The average for begging in London is around £55 a day, more than the average worker in the area takes home.

    First point is that you’ve misquoted the Mail article, that figure was for begging in central London. The survey was done for Westminster council so it may actually refer to that area specifically. Anyway, let’s assume that this number of £55 a week is accurate for central London or Westminster (which I would say is fairly unlikely given the rest of the article). “This BBC article” claims that the average wage for Westminster is £934/week (for 2005). That’s £187/week. The local authority in the UK with the lowest average wage is (according to that article) Berwick-upon-Tweed with an average of £302/week. That’s £60/week. So, the claim is looking a little ropey. Perhaps we could give them the benefit of the doubt and imagine that when they say “average wage” they’re referring to “median wage”, but that’s unlikely as it would be a very unusual usage. Again, we might give the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re correcting for the fact that beggars don’t pay tax whereas wage earners do. Again, unlikely because they would probably mention that somewhere (if not on the Mail article, then on one of the related pages, e.g. the press release by Westminster council or the Killing with Kindness campaign web page mentioned in the Mail article). The only way I can imagine it might make sense is the specific wording they’ve used about “workers’ wages”. Is this some arbitrary thing where they’ve excluded all the very high income people working and living in Central London?

    04 Apr 2007, 01:33

  2. The problem with many beggars is that many are not actually completely poor, and beg to fund their ever spiralling drug habits, thus diverting money from real homeless into the pockets of drug dealers.

    Wait… is this the problem? Should one only give money to people who are “completely poor”? Or do we actually have enough money that we can afford to give some to people who may or may not be “completely poor”? The point about drug habits is a red herring. When you give money to someone, you don’t tell them what they should spend it on. That’s not charity – that’s an attempt at social control. (Which is something the Mail is often vehemently against.) Yes, it may conceivably be the case that if someone is completely deprived of money so that they can’t afford anything at all, they will have to take more drastic action than if they had some money, and this might actually end well for them if they managed to get off drugs. The campaign that the Mail article talks about suggests there is some unsourced anecdotal evidence saying that. But, this is based on speculation and anecdote rather than any empirical facts. Other anecdotal evidence (from homeless people themselves) suggests that being deprived of money would have made them more likely to resort to crime. Would that be better?

    It’s worth noting that two of the largest homelessness charities in the UK – Shelter and Crisis – do not support the view that you shouldn’t give money to beggars.

    “So please please, think about where your money is going before you give to beggars, you may just be funding drugs…”

    Should we also not see Hollywood films or listen to pop music because many actors and musicians also take drugs? There’s another point. This Home Office research paper (from 2001) estimates the amount spent on illegal drugs in the UK to be about £6bn/year. According to the research mentioned in the Mail article, some 70% of homeless people tested postive for drugs, and that the total amount of money made by beggars in London is about £500k/month or £6m/year. Making the unrealistic assumption that all of those 70% of homeless drug users spend 100% of their money on drugs leads to the conclusion that homeless people contribute 0.07% to the drugs industry. That’s less than one thousandth. Does this amount really have any impact on the illegal drugs trade? I think the answer is clearly no.

    04 Apr 2007, 01:34

  3. If beggars spent as much effort trying to sort their lives out as they did harassing you for money, half of them would be in work.

    04 Apr 2007, 14:00

  4. ... is an example of a statement that is false.

    04 Apr 2007, 19:02

  5. Proof please.

    04 Apr 2007, 19:48

  6. Quite.

    04 Apr 2007, 19:54

  7. very true actually, just yesterday I was in London and a beggar came up to me asking if I had a sense of humour, clearly drunk, whilst puffing a cigarette… not quite sure what he was on about but if he spent less money on fags and booze and more on living and food etc… he might not be begging at all…

    06 Apr 2007, 14:57

  8. Too subtle for me…

    07 Apr 2007, 03:29

  9. I am currently reading a book entitled “Stuart: a life backwards” by Alexander Masters, which tells the story of a homeless man whom the author befriended. I thoroughly recommend that those of you making sweeping statements about what the homeless should and shouldn’t be doing – and what we should and shouldn’t be doing for them – read this book. It is just not that black and white. You’re much better off just not giving that much of a shit about them than trying to apply solutions that are based almost entirely on fallacious assumptions. A fair, equal society does have an obligation to these people – it would be immoral for society to abandon these people – but that does not mean that each of us has an individual obligation to help, or even care at all. Some people do, and they do a great job. Those who don’t care shouldn’t tell those who do how to go about their jobs because, put simply, they know a shitload more than you do about the topic.

    07 Apr 2007, 11:11

  10. Shirl

    I couldn’t agree more, James

    07 Apr 2007, 11:14

  11. Mary

    When my mother gives money to beggars she always says “Now, don’t spend it on drugs or alcohol will you, please.” They always say “No.”

    I’m interested in the book James is reading and might check it out. At the moment I’m reading “The man who loved only numbers.” It’s very good and this piece stands out for me:-

    There is a much quoted story about David Hilbert, who one day noticed that a certain student had stopped attending class. When told that the student had decided to drop mathematics to become a poet, Hilbert replied, “Good – he did not have enough imagination to become a mathematician.”

    I’m increasingly beginning to realise just how much truth there is in that sentiment.

    07 Apr 2007, 14:58

  12. ” When my mother gives money to beggars she always says “Now, don’t spend it on drugs or alcohol will you, please.” They always say “No.” “

    of course they are going to say No, its like giving a child a pound and saying now don’t spend it on sweets will you! They will always say no, but then clearly go straight to the sweet shop!

    By the way all, the thread was actually aimed at letting people know how much a beggar might be making, and to encourage the giving of money to charities… It wasn’t intended to be degrading towards a beggar, merely an alternative way of helping…

    07 Apr 2007, 16:47

  13. Mary

    What I said was actually a misrepresentation of the truth, what I meant to say was that the ones who answer her say “no” others give a coy smile which might well mean “yes.” But charity begins at home and if my mother sees someone who is desperate (and they must be to beg) she can’t turn a blind eye and I find it very difficult myself.

    07 Apr 2007, 18:27

  14. I don’t generally give money to beggars, precisely because of the worry that money will be spent on drugs and booze. But if I see someone who looks genuinely homeless, I’ll pop into the local McDonald’s or Starbucks and buy them a burger or a coffee or something instead. That way, I know exactly where the money’s gone and I know that someone’s at least drinking something warm (especially on a cold night) or has a bit of hot food inside them. I’m more likely to do this is the homeless persons are old or have obviously been in the streets for quite some time and do not look like alcoholics.

    I think some of the harsher comments here are a bit out of line. Not everyone was born with a silver (or even bronze) spoon in their mouth. Yes I know some people at university are funding themselves through sweat and loans… but try getting a job when you don’t have an address. Moreover, try getting a loan if you don’t have an address. It’s not quite as easy as saying “If they put as much effort into x”... this country is quite unforgiving to many homeless people.

    07 Apr 2007, 20:21

  15. PS – I’d prefer to differ between “Homeless People” and “Beggers”. I usually associate the word “Begger” with racist chav scum who bother you for “Money for a bus ticket”. Bog off and buy your own ticket you little sh*ts.

    07 Apr 2007, 20:23

  16. To be honest, I spend my money on drugs and booze, as do many students, so why should I judge anyone else for doing it?

    08 Apr 2007, 13:03

  17. Mary

    My mother wasn’t judging anyone for taking drugs or booze because she always asks the queston after handing over the money and I think in her heart she knows that it may be a habit that she is funding but she probably thinks there but for the grace of something or other goes I.

    08 Apr 2007, 16:10

  18. Natalie – because it’s your money? If you’re also paying for everyone else’s drugs and booze I could understand your point :P

    08 Apr 2007, 20:47

  19. Yeah my point was if I was going to give money it would be because I had that money to spare and wanted to give it, and worrying that it would be spent on drugs or alcohol wouldn’t stop me. But I’m not rich yet so the beer is strictly for me for now.

    08 Apr 2007, 22:11

  20. How the fuck could anyone think £55 a day is more than the average worker in London “takes home”.
    Comprehensive, Goodman.

    10 Apr 2007, 20:42

  21. I think one of the problems of tackling the poverty (in London) question is the sheer size of it, link:”http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/mhillebrandt/entry/londons_poor_side/”

    When directly confronted with someone’s plight a wish to help directly is only natural. On the other, as with everything, it’s a common sense matter. You have to judge by appearances (which is quite difficult in any case) to estimate where the money you give is going. And however unjudgemental we would like to be about others, financing (for example) someone’s drugs habits doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

    The problem of poverty is often, if not always, more complex. We may ask ourselves if giving money to a beggar eventually helps to break through the cycle of poverty. My expectation is that it usually doesn’t. People need to eat, every day, and for that to work. To work one needs at least an address, which some counts don’t give. Etc.

    On the other hand it’s true that only few people will instead of donating to an individual beggar give to a charity or NGO. Still, with the scale of things, it’s a problem that has to be tackled on an institutional basis, by the government and organisations that know “a shitload more about it” than average Joe, in James Hughes’ words.

    14 Apr 2007, 18:14

  22. counts=coins

    14 Apr 2007, 18:15

  23. Lucy

    The central problem with giving to homeless charities does not seem to have been adressed, namely that charities unavoidably spend quite a large amout of their money on admin, so less is seen by the people who need it. If you want your money to go towards a specific thing, like some warm clothes or a meal, you should (as was suggested) simply buy it for them. Also, homeless people are just that – people who are homeless. It seems a little mean, to say the least, to whine about how much they MAY recieve in a day when you recieve the enormous social advantages being a student allows. Also, since when did we take the Dail Mail seriously over anything?

    15 Apr 2007, 22:30

  24. amiee

    its tight to not give beggars money, even if they do spend it on drugs

    16 Apr 2007, 14:25

  25. But Lucy, what if the beggars sell their food/clothes and buy drugs with the proceeds?
    oh, god, no, fuck, there’s no way out of this quandry!

    16 Apr 2007, 22:03

  26. James

    I have encountered many beggars, more recently the aggressive East European women who shove babies at you and wave a note saying ‘Feed my Baby’. I don’t give to any of them, even though I am a fan of the Jethro Tull song ‘Aqualung’.

    The reason is that charities and the welfare state already exist and to which I contribute via taxes and donations to charity shops (which I do, in fact, make from time to time). There are means available for these people. By giving money randomly on the street you are simply exacerbating the problem of drugs and anti-social behaviour. I know women who have been menaced by the people who make speeches on London trains (about ‘raising money for a hostel …’). I don’t mean to sound heartless, but where there exists a mechanism for social support there isn’t much of a case for begging. I particularly get annoyed when they have dogs with them, which I understand is because they get a grant, and presumably more in the sympathy vote.

    Rant over. Now call me a heartless capitalist etc.

    25 Apr 2007, 10:51

  27. You heartless capitalist etc.

    25 Apr 2007, 15:29

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