I have some thoughts about charity, based on my interactions with Andrew and the people who are supposed to help him.
I am yet to engage with the Council on Andrew’s behalf, so can’t comment on how they treat him. However, he tells me that they can’t and won’t help him, as he made himself “intentionally homeless”. This phrase lets councils off the hook and means that they no longer have a “duty” of care towards him.
I’m sure how it works elsewhere, but our council seem to be working in tandem with the main local homeless charity. This is very unfortunate for Andrew, as the local charity outreach worker seems to hate him. Why is this? I don’t know the full story, but it boils down to this: Andrew is not a good person.
His past contains criminal behaviour, he “refuses to engage”, he is often unpleasant. He is hardly ever grateful.
Now, having spent a lot of time with Andrew, I would say that some of his refusal to engage is due to an inability to do so. He has ADHD and cannot give you his attention for more than a few seconds.
Andrew is a difficult person to help, but is he ‘undeserving’?
His family support is non-existent, he is young and he is very poorly. His Type 1 Diabetes is not under control and he has hyperglycaemia – he cannot walk very far and he has no energy, which makes him grumpy.
The well-meaning woman who tried to house Andrew through crowdfunding a deposit, used to rescue dogs. However, I don’t think the idea of ‘rescue’ is helpful in relation to homeless people. You can’t just snatch a rough sleeper off the streets and put them into a house. Their brains and problems haven’t changed. They are homeless for a reason and the reason is often anti-social.
She is now helping someone who more readily fits her idea of what a homeless person should be: someone who can and will help themselves. Someone who is polite and grateful. Someone who lives in a tent and is self-sufficient. A sort of Ray Mears survivalist. Andrew, however, is not ‘surviving’ he is existing, he is feral, he is filthy and disgusting. He is as dirty as a freshly dug potato and if you offered him a bath, he would probably say he doesn’t want one. He is awkward and unpleasant.
He is not ‘deserving poor’, but isn’t it time we ditched this Victorian idea? It is based on middle class morality and Andrew isn’t middle class and never has been. Even if he wasn’t on the streets, middle class values would be something alien to him.
The whole system is based on corporate targets and bourgeois social values. It is not helping – it is making judgement. It is measuring the poor against a scale of virtuous conduct that they do not relate to.