Help experts to help beggars

Jill Buchanan
Jill Buchanan

Do you give money to beggars?

Simple question, but how many of us would answer it honestly?

Much easier to fudge the issue – “I would if I had change”, “I was running for a bus”, “It was my lunch hour and I had to get back”, the list is endless.

There was a time when the only people you saw begging for coppers were down-and-outs on city street.

Sadly, that has changed. The other day I walked halfway along Falkirk’s High Street and three different people, two men and a woman, were asking people for money.

Sitting on doorsteps, hands out, their pleas for cash scrawled on pieces of cardboard, they looked a sorry sight.

What did I do? The honest reply is nothing.

It was easier to walk on by than decide whether I should give, then whether a handful of coins would make any difference to their predicament.

There is a train of thought that some people make a career out of begging, only putting on rags to carry out their day ‘job’, before returning to their warm homes and families after their collecting stint.

However, I’m sure many of those who resort to begging on the streets are in genuine need. But that brings me back to the problem of whether giving them your loose change makes a difference.

A friend felt so guilty about one youngster she saw begging in Edinburgh that she rushed off and bought him a hot chocolate.

Personally, I think it’s better to give what you can to the experts, such as the Salvation Army or Falkirk Foodbank, who can do more for these people by using their resources and experience.