So a few days ago, I took 2 sandwiches from a homeless guy.
I was walking to Sainsbury’s and this guy was sat outside. It was only 7pm and already only 2 degrees (it got down to -5 overnight). While I was fiddling about getting some change out of my bag, I got chatting to him, and asked if he was able to get to a shelter for the night, as it was so cold.
He told me he didn’t go to the shelter anymore, as there are a lot of bullies there who pick on him, and he showed me the gap where his front tooth used to be, which got knocked out last time he stayed at the shelter. He also informed me glumly that with the new government cutbacks it didn’t look like the shelter would be around for much longer.
As I was headed into the supermarket anyway, I asked him if, in addition to the spare change I had given him, I could also buy him a sandwich or something to eat?
He laughed and with an extremely wry smile pointed to a Sainsbury’s bag next to him, which was full of sandwiches. Apparently loads of people had given him sandwiches, all of which were reduced and would go off tomorrow, and he didn’t think he could face eating another sandwich.
I asked him if there was something else he’d rather have instead, and he said what he’d really love was a sausage roll or a steak slice.
So I bought him one of each, (although was gutted I couldn’t heat them up for him!) and as I gave them to him, he insisted I take some of his sandwiches, as they’d only go in the bin, cos he couldn’t eat them all before they went off, and anyway he didn’t like half of the ones he was given.
Naturally I said I couldn’t possibly take his food, and he looked really sad, and said no-one would take them, he’d been offering them to people all day, and then he said “I swear they’re perfectly all right. I know I’m homeless, but I’m not contagious or anything, and still no-one’ll touch em. They’re all still in their packets and everything.”
Poor man looked so sad that no-one would touch anything from him, so of course I took the sandwiches!
My flatmate and I got a free lunch, and I was once again reminded of why it’s so much better to always give people in need cash rather than in-kind goods – whether overseas or here at home. So much better if he could have chosen for himself what he’d like to eat, instead of being constantly given reduced, about-to-go-off, tuna sandwiches, day in, day out.
It was a perfect example of what I do most of the time in my current job – working on convincing people that it’s better to give cash rather than food!
Next time I’ll just give him the money and offer to watch his stuff while he goes and shops for himself.