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'Homeless' or 'beggar'? The two are not always the same.


[23 March 2016]
What's in a name? There's currently lots of activity on these social networks, and in the local news media, around helping those in desperate need. Daily, we read of projects and activities that are rallying to do remarkable things for people living in chaos and despair. Fantastic, but sometimes the terminology being used to describe those who are to benefit is ill thought through. Definitions matter.

In particular, it's misleading to use the words 'homeless' and 'beggar' as if the person they are describing is identical.

Two studies reported upon in 2015 help us to understand the importance of distinguishing between homelessness and begging.
BBC - homelessness and begging
The Telegraph - homelessness and begging
The BBC article shares the results of a BBC News 'Freedom of Information' request to 34 police forces across the UK, revealing that of 1,002 people arrested for begging in 2014 only 199, approximately 1 in 5, met the legal definition of homeless.

The Telegraph reported on a study carried out in Nottingham by the homelessness charity Framework. This study found that only 10% of beggars were actually rough sleeping, 30% of those 'posing as destitute' were living with friends or family, and 50% even owned their own homes.

The study of beggars in Nottingham also found that approximately 50% had alcohol dependency, 50% had other substance mis-use issues, and 10% had mental ill-health.

Both these reports clearly show that the terms 'homeless' and 'beggar' are not interchangeable.

Begging is a problem, and requires quite a different response to homelessness.

Begging can often:

- support an individual's addiction to alcohol or drugs.
- divert financial resources away from charities and organisations that provide vital support services.
- create difficulties for shops and businesses, as potential customers avoid certain streets and premises.


It is important, however, to recognise that people who resort to begging ARE in need of help. The organisations listed in the HumberHelp directory provide a very wide range of helpful support ranging from help with addictions, to debt relief, to provision of food parcels, to positive activity to help with poor mental health.

By far the best gift to give a person who is begging is the support they need to help them into a more positive lifestyle.

The 'homeless' and 'beggars', the two are not always the same.
homeless or beggar