It's Christmas time, in case you hadn't noticed, when we're all supposed to feel charity towards our fellow human beings. So why do only one in ten Londoners say they feel "guilt" when they see a homeless person? 10%?! The other 90% just, what, walk on by? In the richest city in the fourth largest economy in the world, to have people without a roof over their heads is just ... wrong. It's a collective failure, and we should all be outraged. As for the half of those asked who said "they did not give money to street beggars", why on earth not? You know you'd only spend it on crap, anyway.
We've heard the arguments for and against giving cash to the homeless, and we have to confess that when people say things like "A few of these people are genuinely desperate; most aren't. How do we tell the difference? " we begin to despair. How to tell the difference, indeed. Well, usually the state of their clothes, hair, skin, hands, and teeth are a big enough clue; you have to be pretty blind and/or utterly unobservant not to be able to tell a 'genuine' homeless person from a 'fake'. We also think that punishing the many for the sins of the few isn't exactly fair.
The figures don't exactly make comfortable reading. It's even worse when you remind yourself that the people you step over on your way to work every day aren't pieces of furniture; they're people, and, even taking into account the rampant mental illness and levels of drug and alcohol abuse among the vagrant population, surely society must be able to offer them better than this. Come on, London, have a heart.
The photo accompanying this article is taken from wgdavis's Flickr photostream, and subject to a Creative Commons licence.