It’s hard to walk through Manchester’s city centre without seeing a homeless person sat on the pavement, grasping a cup and pleading to pedestrians around them for a bit of spare change.
Some play instruments or show off talents to ‘earn’ their money while others simply sit, hoping and silently praying for their luck to turn.
But most are treated with the same sort of contempt by the average person.
The stereotypical view is that any money given to them is spent on alcohol, drugs, short-term fixes for poor, long-term habits. And often, you’re not wrong.
I, like many others, have had the naive thought enter my brain at times – ‘why can’t they just get a job? Surely you can find some sort of basic employment, save up and eventually get off the streets?’
If only it were that easy. To get a job, you need to look presentable, trustworthy and employable.
To do that, you may need a nice outfit and a clean shave – things that cost money.
It’s a never-ending loop, and eventually poverty becomes a way of life and change is near impossible.
The story of Ronald Davis went viral this week, a homeless man from Chicago who explained the struggles and ‘humiliation’ of panhandling.
In the YouTube video, Mr Davis speaks about begging for change in order to afford a room for the night and avoid sleeping on park benches, while being insulted and called names such as ‘bum’ in the process.
“I’m not a bum, I’m a human being,” Mr Davis says, with tears rolling down his cheek in a moment which truly tugs at your heartstrings.
And it raises a depressing point. Some of these people are scowled at for simply making a few bad choices in life and their human rights go out of the window.
Yet often, you’ll find the people with the biggest hearts are the ones with the smallest bank balance – homeless people have been through it all and it only takes a small experience with one to restore your faith in humanity.
My friend often tells a story about when he was driving on a quiet road one night, only for his car to break down abruptly.
With no phone or method of transport, all he could do was appeal for anyone to stop and help.
The only person to take any notice of him turned out to be a man asleep on the side of the road who offered to push the car to a service station half a mile away and wait with them until his parents arrived.
Of course, there are a few rogue ones, I remember walking home from the shops one day, proudly holding a bag with a new pair of expensive trainers.
I walked through an underpass where a homeless person was on a mobile. He then got up and walked off wearing the same trainers I had just bought. Hard times indeed.
But all it takes is one generous person to look into their hearts and offer someone a break, like the case of Ted Williams, a man whose ‘radio voice’ took him from the streets to global stardom.
So next time, instead of ignoring and walking past a homeless person, be that person and put yourself in their position.
Offer a helping hand or even stop to talk to them, you might be surprised at what you can learn.
Picture courtesy of Deadly Sirius via Flickr, with thanks