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AIBU about this homeless girl

(21 Posts)
Tryingtostayyoung Sat 01-Oct-16 06:55:14

Hey all. Yesterday I was on my way into work very very early in the morning, it's the sort of London area that is "trendy" but also quite poor for locals and there's bit alot of pockpocketing/handbag stealing. I came out the station and it was literally deserted so abit freaked out I start power walking into work. A young girl approached me, maybe early 20s who was clearly homeless and literally said, I'm homeless please help me hmm I didn't know what to say. I said to her that I didn't have any food or change on me (I didn't) and asked her if she knew where the nearest shelter or soup kitchen was, she said she did but couldn't go there and didn't know of any others. At this point I started to get a bit twitchy because I'm worried this may be a set up and nick my bag because she seems abit odd and also because I'm now going to be late for work which means staying late and I'm the only person who can pick DD up. So I say to her look, if you meet me outside this cafe in 3hours I will bring you a list of all the nearest shelters and soup kitchens, she literally ran off crying. I went back, waited for her and she never showed. I left the list with the cafe owner incase she came back.

AIBU that I feel really really guilty? I feel like she needed help and I didn't give it. Although I'm not sure what else I could have done.

jessica11054 Sat 01-Oct-16 06:57:29

Pretty strange. Sounds like she wanted money.

AdaLovelacesCat Sat 01-Oct-16 07:01:50

she might have had addiction problems tbh, esp as she was not allowed into the nearest shelter. the shelters can be v harsh about behaviour.
What she wanted was money for drugs or drink tbh. Not that I am saying she didnt deserve help.

Tryingtostayyoung Sat 01-Oct-16 07:04:14

AdaLovelacesCat that makes some sense although I have tbh she didn't seem like she had an addiction. More jumpy and scared. I've felt really shit since, been repeatedly playing on my mind, she seemed so young and sad but I just didn't know how I could help her.

UpLighter Sat 01-Oct-16 07:09:03

Sounds like you tried to do something which is more than most would do. You did what you could at the moment you could do it. Well done smile

BitchQueen90 Sat 01-Oct-16 07:10:30

I work in a hostel for the homeless, if you know of any local homeless charities you could contact and give them a description of her so they can look out.

You did all you could (more than most) so don't feel guilty. We don't advise people to give out money anyway because in the end it doesn't help them in the long run which is what the aim is.

hesterton Sat 01-Oct-16 07:16:26

That was such a thoughtful thing to do. Had she been very fresh on the streets your help could have led her to a safe place.

Like others, I suspect she was more likely to have been after cash to feed and addiction, but you can never assume this.
You followed through with your offer which most people wouldn't have done.


thissismyusername Sat 01-Oct-16 07:34:37

You offered her some real concrete help, unfortunately she wasn't able to take it that time.

blinkowl Sat 01-Oct-16 07:44:06

You did the right thing x 1000. You are a very nice person.

Like the PP said she wasn't able to take your help at that time.

I think you are a bit naive with the comment "she didn't look like an addict" though.

I'm curious, what do you think an addict looks like?

A 20 something who was "clearly homeless" begging for money in the streets but not interested in soup kitchens sounds very much like she could be an addict.

It's possible there may have been a man behind the scenes too who's told her to go get money so they / he can get drugs. Or any one of a zillion other scenarios.

JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel Sat 01-Oct-16 07:47:53

Quite likely she's under the control of a pimp. You did what you could but her situation is probably complex and she needs access to a professional organisation to help her.

Tryingtostayyoung Sat 01-Oct-16 07:51:59

Thanks everyone. I was trying to see if there was something else I could have done that I didn't think of just incase I ever see her again.
Glad to know I did the right thing

MargotFenring Sat 01-Oct-16 08:12:24

I work with homeless individuals, really entrenched people with multiple and complex needs (substance use, offending, homelessness and mental health). There are some very vulnerable individuals out there, who need help and empathy but there are also some very capable, and organised homeless people that have their own routines - eat at the same place at the same time every day, take turns with others for the best begging spots, talk to the same people, score when they need to, have a back up score when they need it etc.

The point is, without knowing the individual and their story it is hard to judge accurately. Begging for help/money is a main supply source for some and some are better than others.YANBU to help, it is your choice (and sounds safest in this instance).

ShebaShimmyShake Sat 01-Oct-16 08:21:46

Margot, with your knowledge on the subject, how should we best help homeless people? I don't like to give money (happy to give food, will go into a shop and buy food to give) as I worry it will go on a dealer's new car. Often I find people refuse my offer of food and want only money. I know these people are very vulnerable and need help,how best to do it?

Tryingtostayyoung Sat 01-Oct-16 08:27:57

Margot I'm also very interested to hear what else we can do to help homeless people. It just seems like they need help but i never know the best way to do this.

hesterton Sat 01-Oct-16 08:31:36

Give to homelessness charities. Really, that's the best way.

MargotFenring Sat 01-Oct-16 08:38:09

It is a huge question, and the answer for one will not be the same as for another. IMO, a person centred approach is needed. There needs to be real understanding that because you set a person up in a flat, and sort their benefits, that they won't always cope, so will fail and go back to the streets often within the first two weeks. Each individual you see, is exactly that, an individual with their own story, agenda, motivations and dreams. If they gave been on the streets a while, our 'normal' works quickly becomes a frightening and intimidating place, that is complicated and confusing to navigate.

There is also no straight forward answer for how to respond to begging. There is interesting work being done around alternative giving schemes, but even these won't produce any immediate success. Personally I don't give to beggars. The city I live in has an overabundance of food drops/soup kitchens so I know the chances of them starving are small. If you want to help, then if you can volunteer, give sleeping bags/socks/pants/smaller sized clothing items/blankets/batteries/torches to a local shelter.

I wish I had a firm answer, I am involved in pilots that are doing excellent work, but these are initially costly which make them unpopular to funders. The real change has to happen in the already existing systems and how they recognise and respond to genuine need, in its many guises.

MargotFenring Sat 01-Oct-16 08:39:52

'normal' world*

ClashCityRocker Sat 01-Oct-16 08:51:44

I will start of by saying that I think you did all you could.

Having been a homeless teen/young I can completely understand why she wanted to avoid the shelters and soup kitchens - they can be pretty scary places for young women in particular. I don't have the statistics to hand but sexual assault on women who are homeless are high, even in shelters. Many prefer to sleep rough or (as I occassionally did I'm ashamed to say) go home with someone for the night. The few nights I spent in a shelter were awful. One night I ended up sat in the managers office as people kept trying to get in to my bunk.

The YMCA used to be a good place for homeless teens - it's where I ended up and they only take up to under 25s so has a different feel than a hostel or shelter.

I'm not saying she was not an addict or up to no good, btw, she might well have been, just saying I can understand why she didn't want to go to the shelters.

MargotFenring Sat 01-Oct-16 08:54:33

Oh and if you want further inspiration, go on YouTube and search for "Matt Abbott, I matter". Powerful stuff.

KnitsBakesAndReads Sat 01-Oct-16 09:03:58

I think you did more to try and help than most people would.

If you see this person regularly in a similar place at the same time then you could contact Thames Reach who are a London charity who will try to come and visit people who are street homeless and help them access support services. I contacted them a while ago because I was worried about a young man who I often saw sleeping under a bridge near my office. I think they said it's often best if you know where a person is sleeping as they're more likely to be able to locate and talk to the person that way. Have a look at their website and see if there's a way they might be able to help.

HerFaceIsaMapOfTheWorld Sat 01-Oct-16 12:06:24

Op please don't feel guilty, regardless there are so many con artist out there how are you suppose to know.
There is a man who walks along the motor way with one leg who I always use to give money too, I thought he was a refugee however it was reported via the police that Romanian gangs are pretending to be refugees in the area and using people with disabilities for sympathy. I gave this man around £2 something nearly everyday for a month.
You can never be sure these days and tbh and its not fair you feel guilty over this.

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