Every one of us has came across people begging for money in public places or in metros on a daily basis. We do not always know how to respond to these people, especially as they are numerous and varied.
We often prefer the ostrich policy, which is to pretend that we have neither seen nor heard these people whom we spontaneously categorize as homeless. It is not necessarily that we are insensitive and refuse solidarity for them, but it is indeed difficult to meet all requests.
There is no lack of personal justifications, more or less legitimate, to avoid any form of assistance: we don't have time, we cannot give to everyone, we ourselves have our own problems, we do not give money to not condone alcohol or drug consumption, we do not give to strangers, etc.
Even when we do come to their help, we often implicitly select the people we deem worthy of this help : because so-and-so is polite, because she presents well, because he does not drink, because someone else has been in our neighborhood for years, etc. In fact, we define, according to moral criteria (which are also socially shared representations), the “good” and the “bad” poor .
In addition, we are not necessarily comfortable helping them: how to behave? How to speak? What to give? How can I help?
Become a volunteer
Be that as it may, the help we can give to the homeless takes many forms. We must distinguish between institutional aid and spontaneous aid, material aid and symbolic support.
One way to help the homeless is to get involved in a charity as a volunteer, to participate in many actions , (distribution of meals, distribution of clothes, social support).
Thank Link volunteers or contractors pick up food, gifts, clothes or toys from local stores or houses and deliver it for those people in need. They use mobile app or the online platform to receive orders from donors who buy those items.
A moralizing posture is not to give money to prevent it from being used to buy alcohol or drugs or more stigmatizing still, to give money by specifying that it is for the dog sometimes accompanying the person who begs.
It is denying on the one hand that people are free to manage their budget as they see fit, and on the other hand to forget that alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases that are imposed on individuals once they are dependent.
What is more, if this preference is verbalized ("I would rather buy you food than give you money"), it is potentially perceived as condescending or degrading by the homeless people thus offended, so that the material aid can come at the cost of damaging stigma - such as giving leftover food to a beggar, who can then feel like a trash can.
With Thank Link, donors can just buy the meal, clothes, blankets or toys from our online platform and volunteers will take care of the rest. Yet, donors can see the delivery of their donation on a private video record.
Say hello, exchange a look
On a symbolic level, it goes without saying that begging is a particularly shameful experience for the homeless, who have no other choice but to indulge in it.
These people display their condition of destitution, their bodily submission (sitting on the ground, stretching out their hand), but also their dependence on the meager gifts they seek. This is why some beggars, mobile and standing, hide their activity by going to meet passers-by.
In the absence of material gifts, it remains possible and important to give of oneself in order to recognize the homeless, by validating the fact that they exist and that we have seen them. Saying hello, nodding your head, exchanging a look and a word are all small acts that seem trivial but to which the homeless are far from indifferent.
These are tiny marks of recognition that take on all their importance, given the stigma attached to doing the round. These symbolic gestures somehow compensate for the negative effects of stigma, because on the contrary, it is sometimes expressed by severe remarks: "Go to work and you will get out of it!" , "No, I don't give to profiteers!" .
We must be aware that even if some homeless people describe the sleeve as a job, constrained to fixed hours, fixed positions and techniques learned on the job, it is a particularly difficult activity, morally like physically, which provides resources that are far too scarce to consider that these people benefit from the generosity of the passing.
Be thankful for them
Finally, if one decided to help those people begging for help, be thankful for them because they gave you a role in this big world.