I feel like some small part of me dies every time I ignore a homeless person

In the recent years, Stockholm has seen an explosion of homeless people on the streets. While many people say they had never seen the homeless in Sweden before, they have been around from the time I have been in Stockholm – which is the past 2 years or so. There are two kinds of homeless that I notice. Some homeless people born in Sweden, who have fallen off the system, are alcoholic or something like that and there others are the Romani people, who due to the their persecution in Romania and elsewhere and because of EUs free movement policies find themselves in Stockholm.

A homeless person from Romania

I have been listening to a lot of discussions about the homeless in Sweden. While some say that the Romani people come to Sweden because they earn higher amounts of money because Swedes are generous, others say that Swedes usually cross the street and walk on the other side to avoid guilt and interactions with a homeless person. As for me, so far, I usually look away from some homeless people and sometimes I smile and nod, like I acknowledge him or her or I say good morning or something like that.

One day a beggar persisted and asked me for money like 10 times on the subway, so I just gave money to him. I don’t know if I gave the money because I was embarrassed or harassed or my heart simply melted, but anyway that kind of behavior on the beggar’s side is usually acceptable in Sweden and has happened to me only once. Another time however, there was this musician who played this lovely french song on a gloomy day in the Subway. That was the highest response in terms of monetory returns from listeners, that I have seen a musician or performer has managed to receive on the Subway! I also gave him 5 SEK cuz it was really the perfect song that really lifted my spirits that day 🙂 However, now he and others play that song everyday on the subway and the response is still very high, but I do not give him or the others any money. I guess it is because the song just doesnt make me feel the same way now.

One of the main reasons I never give money is because I dont have much money. 5 SEK means something to me right now. I think before buying a choloclate, I have bought bottled water like once in 2 years. I am not in a position that I can consider giving money to the homeless. So in way, I have had it easy in that I have not had to make a decision regarding the homeless, weather I wanted to give money or not.

However, in the future I would be earning and living in Stockholm and today morning I made the decision about how I would treat a homeless. I was reading something on the kindle while riding the subway and I felt really emotional and , when a homeless woman was asking for money. I dunno, something just happened within me when I saw her and felt this is unfair, she doesn’t deserve to suffer this way.

I will be giving food or  clothes and other things instead of money to the homeless and I will have monthly budget. I will also talk and engage with homeless near my living area or who ever I meet regularly, so that I can choose people who I know won’t spend money on alcohol or drugs, so that I can understand their problems and give things accordingly. The following are the reasons for it:

  1. They are humans – I see them as just being humans doing the most of what they can given the situation they are in. They are suffering, their life is difficult as it is, I want to be do something to alleviate the suffering for that particular human, even if in the long run it would mean more humans choosing to be a beggar. Mainly, because there is no way we know if it giving money is better or worse for the society and community as a whole. I dunno, I feel like some small part of me dies every time I ignore a homeless person. Maybe, I won’t be like doing it but let’s see. We’ll see, I just don’t like being indifferent.
  2. Society is not fixing the problem – Government and the society are supposed to take care of such issues. That’s why we pay taxes, that’s why we elect a government, a centralized body that ensures that it does the best it can to make sure social issues are taken care of. The government in Sweden is kinda stuck in a position of inaction on many issues because the government is quite weak right now. The government faced a lot of difficulty in passing the proposed budget in 2014. So, while we wait for some kind of decision to be taken, I want to feel like I am doing something, something small but better than nothing.
  3. Income inequality and consumption – One of the best ways to help increase consumption, they say, is to give money to homeless, because they won’t save a single penny and would consume goods.  For example, richest billionaires cannot consumer a billion dollars but a million people can easily consume a billion dollars really quickly. Poor people need to have money for the economy to work! The folly in this argument is that one does not have control over what the beggar buys and most beggar’s appear to spend that money on drugs or alcohol. Another thing is that income inequality is increasing in both the USA and Sweden. Though, giving money or food to beggars will not fix it, it is just my way of saying that I don’t like the way things are and continue to be, almost taken for granted. There is also talk about there being a mafia which controls all the money that the homeless earn, but I hope giving food and other things helps me navigate around the mafia’s influence as well.

How do you feel about the homeless? How do you deal with such a moral dilemma? How is the situation in your country? I would love to hear about it.

Source for featured picture: http://amritzer.blogspot.se/2012/05/god-give-us-stockholm.html

Source for the 2nd picture: http://totallystockholm.se/arts-culture/roma-love/ (also an interesting article to read)

Raghuraman

An Indian student studying general management at Stockholm School of Economics. Email me your questions at raghu.digitalambassador (at) gmail.com.
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