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Question Of The Day

What Do You Say to Homeless People?

When you're not kicking them in the ribs.
12.7.12

Welcome to Question of the Day. It gives interns something to do!

Remember that time Prince William slept on the street and then he totally understood what it's like to be homeless? He camped out behind a bin, braved the cold weather in a hoodie and cap and even cooked breakfast for some actual homeless the day after. “For me, it was a scary experience. We almost got run over by a road sweeper vehicle,” – there's a quote from the Prince’s charity executive. They definitely get it. But what do you do when you encounter someone who is not on the streets for an experimental 24-hour period before returning to his castle? What's the etiquette for dealing with the homeless?* VICE: What do you say to homeless people who ask for change?
June: I try to give people money unless I’m short myself. It’s taken me ten years to get back into regular work, so I can relate. I have been ripped off a couple of times. How were you ripped off?
Up on Holloway once, there was a gentleman on the bus with a Rolex watch, designer clothes. Half an hour later I saw him begging on the street. I said to him, “What are you doing? Wearing designer trainers and begging, there are people here who’ve been kicked out of their homes.” What did this audacious fraudster say to you?
Nothing, he just walked off.

Andy: it depends what they look like. There’s a tramp near us, who’s got a tonne of dreadlocks and they’ve all turned into one, big dreadlock. We call him Carpet Man. I give him a bit every now and then. Who wouldn’t you give money to?
Maybe a Glaswegian tramp, because that’s just the standard stereotype. What if a Glaswegian tramp was trying to sell you the Big Issue?
Depends who’s on the front cover. James: Normally I just give them whatever change I have on me. One or two pounds is nothing to me. I don’t mean that in a big-headed way. What do you do?
I’m an office manager and account executive for an advertising agency, so you know, I don’t need the spare change as much as some other people do. La di da. What about people selling the Big Issue?
I don’t really buy it, it’s just not of interest to me. Maybe if it was a car magazine. Would you ever pose as homeless for some extra cash?
No, definitely not – I’ve no need. Right, we get it, you're rich. What do you say to homeless people when they ask you for change?
Dwaan: I usually make up some form of excuse that I don’t have any change, when really I do. Hehehe!

Why do you do that, Dwaan?
Because I do not really believe that they’ll spend that money on food. C'mon, stop yankin' my chain! Pssst! [whispering] I think that you are probably going to take my money and use it to fund drugs… Alright. What would you say to someone who was trying to sell you the Big Issue?
I keep my distance – it doesn’t appeal to me at all. [Speaking a rhyme] If it’s not free… do not bother me! What could the homeless be doing instead?
Just go to a Job Centre. There’s help out there… I can’t exactly think where, but begging isn’t going to help. Ilhan: We usually buy them something, innit? Usually buy ‘em crisps and drinks and shit from Tesco and give it to ‘em. Why not give them the money?
I’d rather do that them give ‘em money, because you never know where the money’s gonna go. You feel sorry for ‘em. Do you buy the Big Issue?
What? The Big Issue, the magazine that homeless people sell and they get to keep part of the money.
I’ve never come across that.

What? Daphne: Normally I give some, unless I haven’t got any change then, like, tell them my reason — “I’ve only got my card on me,” or whatever. Normally I do give them money, unless they’re obviously drunk or something.

Do you buy the Big Issue?
If they look like they’re on drugs – I mean, you can kind of tell when someone’s out of it – I wouldn’t, but it’s actually a really good magazine. What would you say if someone asked if you would like to buy the Big Issue?
Tony: “No thanks mate, I’m full up.” What do people typically say to you when you’re trying to sell it?
“No thanks, I’ve read it already.” “Oh, I’ve already got it,” that’s a favourite one. “Not buying it, it’s a shitty one.” Can you tell when people are full of shit?
Yeah. Business good today?
Nah, it’s a wash-out. Pissing rain, nobody’s buying. You gonna buy one, then? Oh my god, I actually haven’t got any change on me. This is a disaster.
Well, have a nice day, it’s alright. I hate myself. Joanna: I don’t say anything. I let my actions speak for me. Sometimes I will say “Have a good day,” but I think the actions are worth much more than the words. I just do the action and I say “Have a good day.” I don’t need to say more, or tell them what I’m giving them or why. I just do my action. I try to focus on that.

??? What do you say when someone asks you for change?
Dan: “Yes!” Always?
Most of the time, yes. Unless someone is too dependent, or is obsessed with getting money. Do you think there's anything homeless folk could do to get money instead of begging or selling the Big Issue?
Nah, I think it’s OK that there are people on the street who do nothing. We don’t all have to be productive. I think they are saving us all, in a way. It’s better to be poor in the street and not harm anyone, rather than making multimillions and rob the whole nation. Previously - What's the Longest You Have You Been Without Sleep?