Matt Broomfield at The New Statesman:
Don’t just give to people who ask you directly, but to the guy with his head in his hands and a Styrofoam cup on the ground in front of him. Give to the woman who’s blind drunk. Give to the guy with meth-rotted teeth. Give to the spice addict who can’t look you in the eye.
Many street beggars are addicts, yes. Do addicts not deserve food? Wouldn’t you want to drink if you were in their position? Don’t you get drunk every weekend to cope with work stress anyway? Who are you to tell them what to do with their bodies?
As the founder of User Voice, a charity led and staffed by former homeless addicts, says: “If your money funds the final hit, accept that the person would rather be dead. If your act of kindness makes him wake up the next morning and decide to change his life, that’s nice but not your business either.”
Of course, it is true that your drinking habit and theirs are fundamentally different. Addiction is rooted in material circumstance – alcohol is the obvious example, but think how many skiing accidents end in courses of opiates far stronger than anything you’d find on the street without any long-term compulsion developing. It can only be tackled by raising people out of poverty, and a brute-force severing of cash flow is not going to starve people into seeking help from authorities they know will not, or cannot, help them.