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A Beggar with Soft Hands

I do believe that it’s important to give something back to those in need when I am going through times of good fortune and my chosen charities are help for heroes and the street homeless of London. I also believe that those doing the collecting for help for heroes should be supported and encouraged, as long as they are not chuggers; which I don’t believe that they employ. I remember , not so long ago seeing young soldiers in uniform in Victoria Station collecting for help for heroes and people were just streaming past them acting as if they weren’t even there – I was disgusted. I always aim to give as much money as I can to registered help the heroes collectors as our armed forces put their lives and livelihood at huge risk for us, with very little in support quite often, when things go wrong.

And ahem. As some of you know I do have a thing for soldiers in uniform too… but I don’t think that enjoying giving money to handsome young men in uniform is necessarily a bad thing. I’ll also never forget my night with two handsome marines but that is all I have to say on that particular matter…

I know that not everyone believes that you should give money to homeless people as they are bound to spend the money on ‘drink and drugs’ well I’m sure that some of them do but I don’t feel that it’s my right to judge them – it’s pretty tough on the streets, I have done both paid and voluntary work with them for years on and off and what they choose to do with the money is up to them; I do avoid those who appear to be obviously high or drunk because they are already in a vulnerable state and I have seen what heroin and severe alcoholism can do, I don’t want to support it but if they have a habit that they are managing then that’s their business, not mine. I give as many pound coins as I can spare and the money may go on booze and fags (and I don’t care if it does) but it may just as well go towards food for them, their dog, a hostel for the night … and often does I think, much better that it goes to them rather than to a chuggers wages; or nameless charity admin costs.

The thing about London’s homeless is unless you speak to them how can you possibly know why they are there or if they are decent people? And I do, a lot, whenever I can. It’s a really rough deal, long term homeless people have dramatically reduced life expectancy and I think unsurprisingly are much more like to develop drug and alcohol addictions which they often did not have until they hit the street. Then to make matters worse so much of society treat them like a subspecies not worthy of even a smile or a few easily spared coins; and smiles do matter even if money isn’t given. So I do give to the homeless whenever I can and if I can’t then I still catch their eyes; and wish them well.

A lot of them are ex soldiers; ex prisoners, people with mental health problems who quite clearly aren’t ‘cared for in the community’ ex care home children and victims of abuse; domestic, physical and sexual. Is there any wonder that ex soldiers who entered service at a very early age (and often to escape troubled home life’s) are left in turmoil on leaving the army without adequate support end up on the streets? That ex prisoners, as we know statistically are very likely to re offend when they are given so little support that they end up on the streets? Why the victims of abuse flee broken from their homes with no funds and no trust and do the best to take care of themselves and end up on the streets? And those with severe mental health problems and no support do too..

Sometimes, just sometimes I do think that the wool has been pulled over my eyes… like tonight! As I went to buy a good bottle of wine there was a girl sitting outside the shop in the rain with a cap by her feet. I stopped and asked if there was anything I could get her and she looked up appreciatively and asked for a spicy pepperoni sausage; two if I could manage it. I was happy to oblige as I used to be quite a fan of them myself until I realised that they mostly contained glucose (weird for such a savoury tasting snack) and that there were healthier ways for me to boost and maintain my blood sugar levels. She took the sausages from me gratefully and rapidly devoured her first; and as I walked away asked me for some spare change. I dug through my purse and located some pound coins which I passed into her incredibly soft hands. If she was homeless then she hadn’t been for long! But who am I to judge? There she was sitting lonely on the cold, hard pavement begging for money while I walked back to a warm flat to share nice wine with a good friend.

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