It was engrained into me from a young age by my parents and teachers that it is better to buy food to give to a homeless person than to give them money. I was told that this was so that they would definitely get something to eat, whereas money could be spent on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. I too went on to give other people the same advice, and would opt to buy coffees and sandwiches for people sleeping on the streets rather than giving them any change. However, it recently occurred to me that everyone who has ever given me this advice are people who themselves have spent their money on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. We feel that we have the right to have these things, because we have homes and money, yet people who are not as financially advantaged do not. Isn’t it extremely elitist to be telling ourselves that poorer people do not have the right to enjoy luxuries, such as alcohol, that wealthier people have?
You may argue that homeless people drinking is irresponsible as they could be spending that money on food or other essentials, yet why do we feel we have the right to say what other people should spend their own money on? Aren’t we all guilt of buying an extra round of jägerbombs when really we should be saving that money to pay the next wifi bill? Let’s be honest, if you were freezing and alone, spending every night sitting on the side of the street for the indefinite future, you would probably feel like a drink. Once you voluntarily give money to someone, it legally becomes that person’s possession. If you were to give someone a £10 note in a birthday card, it would be considered inappropriate for you to tell them how to spend it. Surely we should show the homeless the same respect, and accept that they have the right to spend their money in any way in which they choose.
Some people may argue that offering homeless people money which they could potentially spend on alcohol could be fuelling an addiction, but isn’t this unfair stereotyping? Why do we assume that every homeless person probably has drug or alcohol problems? If this is our real concern, then why don’t all supermarkets and bars check every customer’s medical records before selling them alcohol or cigarettes, in case they have a history of addiction? The idea that we should give homeless people food instead of money is patronising, demonises the homeless, and encourages us to consider homeless people to be lesser members of society.
Edited by: Sarah Holmes