Giving Wisely

May Read, Chief Operating Officer at Mayday Trust explores that reoccurring question asked by many, to give or not to give. Do we need change or do we actually need Systems Change?

Knowing where I work, people I speak with often show interest in why people are homeless, what can be done to help? Why do people sleep rough or beg? People often want to show kindness or make a difference, but wonder whether giving to people who beg, or to charities is the right thing to do.

Can giving to another person ever be the wrong thing to do? Can human kindness to another ever be wrong? It can make you feel better and help the person temporarily, but it won’t change their life. This can be an argument for encouraging people to give to causes that claim to use money more wisely to make a difference- ‘change not change’. This sounds noble, but who decides what a wise use of your money is? This assumes that someone with nothing cannot make wise decision, but also that they must use it wisely. Once you have gifted money to anyone, you lose the right to say what someone spends it on, whether it is a Christmas gift or a £1 to someone on the street.

This approach makes it look as though the person and the begging is the problem, rather than our system. When a person could get a more sustainable income from begging than using our welfare system; when a person feels more in control of their life begging than seeking help from our system – doesn’t this mean our system is broken, rather than the person?

Helping people get off the streets and end begging is a great end result, if we have worked alongside them to work on what they want and can achieve at that time. If the focus is on clearing the streets so we all feel safe and a little less awkward, it has not really made a difference. Those people may still be stuck, in hostels or more hidden places, still dealing with a system that does not work for them.

Mayday and its Personal Transitions Service (PTS) is proud to work within a wider civil system, we work with donors and volunteers who commit time, money and passion to support us and the way we work with people going through tough times. We are commissioned by public sector commissioners willing to procure innovative providers to work with people going through tough times, like experiencing homelessness.

At Mayday we believe that we will not truly be able to work with people going through tough times until there is a change in the way the current system is organised and funded.