Starting the 17th of May this year, begging for change will be banned here. Hurray, right? This is a great change to help better the street image, right? Finally, we’ll be rid of those filthy people bothering regular, real people like you and me on a daily basis! Except not really. In fact, not at all. This entire idea couldn’t be any worse than it is.
Let me start by pointing out how ludicrous it is to fine people who already can’t afford to live decently. Begging is not something people do because it’s fun or easy. Trust me, I’m speaking out of experience here. If you think doing cold sales is a stressing and emotionally challenging thing to do, try it with the inherent humiliation that begging adds to it.
You could just say that they should get off the streets and get a job already, but look at your own situation. If you’re lucky enough to have a job, how willing are you to let go of it? And if you are willing, how good do you think your chances are on the job market right now? Okay, now let’s take away your last year or so of work experience, take out your stable living address, remove your savings, remove that safety net of friends that give you your confidence. How good are your chances now?
Chances are they’re not too good. You don’t have to be ashamed of this, and please don’t feel ashamed if my assumptions of things that can be removed from your life don’t apply to you because you’re missing out on them as well. I’ve read enough “relatable” hard life posts on the internet from people that were better of than me, I know how that feels.
Just imagine that you’re completely dependent on various government funding and their various departments. These government departments often do blindly assume you have more resources than you actually have, even when they are the ones that are fueling all your resources themselves. A lot of times they’ll know for a fact you have not a single penny to your name and they’ll calmly tell you to wait for their help at the homeless shelter for a month. This shelter costs money to stay at by the way, and if you refuse to stay there, they can refuse to pay out funding. Yes, really. Also, if they do help you within the month, you are one lucky son of a bitch because in most cases it takes much, much longer before their help kicks in.
You might have a better appreciation of how stressful it can be for a lot of people living in a homeless shelter now, especially at first. You have no money to your name, yet your expected to pay money in order to receive the money that’ll help you get back on your feet again. This is still taking away from the trauma of having lost your home, likely a large chunk of the people you thought were your friends, as well as the realization that you are now one of the homeless people you used to look down on or even make fun of.
-So one night, and trust me, this night is going to come sooner or later.
If you’re lucky, this night only comes once. But one night, you won’t have your two euros. Sorry, but without your two euros, you can’t stay at the homeless shelter. They won’t care if you slept there for 3 weeks straight in the same bed already, no money is no admission. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one of the other people there will pay for you. But you have to get really lucky for this to happen, considering everyone else is too poor to be living anywhere else.
No money, no entrance to the homeless shelter. The knowledge that not staying at the shelter is going to jeopardize your chance to receive government aid. What the fuck are you going to do to get the two euros together to be admitted to the shelter?
One solution is begging.
I’m not sure how much exactly they are going to be charging the homeless as the signals I keep getting are quite mixed on it, but you can bet it’s going to be somewhere between 50 and 100 euros. The most you can hope for when begging is somewhere between 5 and 15 euros, so if you’re in a situation where you can be fined for this, it’ll take you 10 days of begging to pay for it. Granted that you don’t get caught during the days you’re gathering the funds to pay for this.
How ridiculous is this?
It sounds like an invitation to criminalization. You’re already outlawing a legal way for someone who is under severe stress to get some money to eat and maybe have a roof over their head for a night. With that already marking them as a criminal, the result for both asking for something and simply taking it is the exact same. No surprise at least a few desperate, hungry, tired people will see things this way.
And you know what the worst part about this is? That example I’ve put up there about the homeless shelter, the 2 euros, and the government aid? That’s an awfully optimistic outlook on the situation here. A lot of people out on the streets have it much, much worse than just that. The example I gave is the one from my personal experience, and I know for a fact that, for all the hardships I went through and as painful as it all was, I got pretty damn lucky.
But wait! It gets worse! The homeless shelter wants to drive back the amount of people they admit on a daily basis! Right now it’s around 80 people per night. Every night, they’re forced to turn away people because they’re full. Most cases, these people will in turn tell more people that they’re full, so those people won’t even bother trying to get in. Now word has gotten out they want to reduce the amount of people admitted to 40. Half the amount of homeless people will be admitted to the most commonly used shelters in the city. At the same time, the Salvation Army’s shelter is going to relocate elsewhere. Also, a well-known shelter for the drug addicted homeless people is closing down.
There’s enough playing for homeless people right now that puts them under a lot of extra stress and makes it harder for them to find their way back on their feet. And they can get back on their feet if you give them the chance to. The very last thing you want to do is make it harder for them by treating a symptom by violently lashing out at it for not being aesthetically pleasing. A backlash is very likely to happen, but chances are that when it does, the extra crimes won’t be linked together to begging being outlawed.
At least there’s one silver lining, even if it’s in a largely unrelated note. Several coffee shops and lunchrooms have taken in the idea of “reserving coffee” for homeless people. Especially since a touching story online started going viral, the idea has become very appealing and accessible to a lot of places that sell coffee. If you know any places that support this idea, then please go and support it by reserving a cup of coffee for someone who could really use something to look forward to. Even if it’s just a single cup of coffee from a complete stranger they’ll never meet. You never know how much something like that could mean to someone.
Besides, it does erase that age-old question, “what are they going to spend it on?” that people usually have problems with.