Following the recent stories about quite a notorious face in Worcester being criminalised for begging and warnings of beggars coming into the city by train during the Christmas Fayre. I haven’t been able to shake the topic from my mind.

At this time of year, we are often more sympathetic, reminded that whilst we overindulge with alcohol, good food and buy expensive presents for our loved ones. Society’s less fortunate do not have beds to sleep in, regular meals or blankets to keep them warm.

Of course, we try to help. We might stop and give some spare change to one of the dozens of homeless people camped out up and down the centre of Worcester. We may take one or two cheap items out of our overflowing trolleys for the foodbank donation points at the supermarket.

But I think the old stereotype of the “undeserving poor” is still very much at play. Homeless people are still thought of as feckless, lazy, addicts who are a burden on society. It is foolish to think that society is not to blame for the collapse of these individuals.

Worcester is full of people that want to help, many local businesses, charities and the public give their time, money and energy into supporting the homeless.

The question is why should we?

In 2019 no person should be left out in the cold; vulnerable, hungry and ignored. It is not our job to help make these peoples abysmal lives slightly more bearable. They shouldn’t be in the situation to start with.

Homelessness, to me, points out considerable failings in society. We cannot fix the issue with donations of sleeping bags and gloves. It is up to the people in the highest places of society to solve the issues that cause homelessness before they happen.

People on the streets are more likely to be mentally ill, have childhood trauma, grown up in care or be in and out of prison.

Criminalising begging does not do anything to help those suffering. It simply widens the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them.’

It is time to change the narrative. Homeless people are not burdening society, rather they are the unpleasant reminder that society doesn’t work for everyone.