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Chronicle reporter goes homeless - and collects just £1.22

By Mike Cotton, Town Reporter Saturday 15th February 2014
Reporter Mike Cotton undercover as a homeless man.

Reporter Mike Cotton decided to spend the day in the shoes of a beggar to see how people in Barnsley town centre would respond.

 

It took less than five minutes of sitting on a bench asking people if they had 'any spare change' before I felt almost invisible, and very sad.

 

Nobody should have to beg on the streets of the town centre because Barnsley, thankfully, seems to have the homelessness situation fairly well under control.

 

But still some people do it. Homeless charities say they know people who have lived outside in Barnsley for days, weeks and even months.

 

I perched on a bench under the 'mushroom' on Cheapside to shelter from the rain on Wednesday morning, asking anyone who passed within a few feet if they could spare anything.

 

I held a dirty mug out towards the passing crowds.

I counted, and within one hour, I had asked 150 people. Most ignored me and kept their eyes straight ahead.

 

Some turned to look at me and quickly turned away.

 

A couple apologised that they 'didn't have anything'.

 

Only one person put anything into the mug.

 

She was a kind-faced lady with long white hair and a purple coat. I caught her eye, and as she passed, asked: "Could you spare any change, please?"

 

She stopped on the spot, but didn't turn to look at me.

 

She rummaged in her purse, neither of us spoke.

 

She broke the awkward silence after what seemed like minutes, by dropping a handful of silver coins and a couple of coppers into the mug - £1.22, and said: "I'm sorry love, this is all I have."

 

In the fleeting glance she passed me, she looked genuinely sorry she didn't have more. She looked very sad that I was doing this - begging on the streets.

 

I'd been there nearly an hour, and had planned to stay for several more.

 

As it happened, a police officer came to move me on. Her superiors knew what I was doing and said they would tell officers to leave me alone, but the message clearly hadn't filtered down the chain of command.

 

I was only there for an hour, but it was enough to make me think hard about the people who don't have a warm house and a bath or shower to go home to.

 

The number of people telling the council they are homeless has fallen by more than half, from 770 to 341, in the last five years. The number of families recognised as homeless has fallen from 103 to 24.

 

But that will be no consolation to those who have nowhere to call home.

 

Barnsley Council has a 'no second night out' scheme. If people are sleeping rough they can visit the Civic, on Eldon Street, and get help from the council's housing officers.

CommentsClick here to add a comment...
Posted by Eddie I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 4:17pm

I hope u gave everyone their money back. Seriously got nothing better to do? What did you hope to achieve from this?

Posted by . I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 4:25pm

I think it doesn't help with the fact that anyone who asks for money in town is usually an addict of sometime, I'm sure many can remember being asked if they had '20 pence for't phone'! Also in such hard times, people aren't willing to just give money away, regardless of the amount.

Posted by louise cassidy I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 4:28pm

If you want to make up point lose the jewelery, and try it for more than a day. Being homeless is not going home after 1 day. Being homeless is not having a home to go to. This is a mockery of those who are truly homeless. Bet you had a breakfast too before 'going homeless, and a wash and dinner and a bed when you ended your day of 'going homeless'

Posted by Ian I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 4:54pm

Whats with the negative comments? This guys actions simply highlighted the fact that many of Barnsleys citizens are as tight as a camels backside. If everyone cared enough to give a another person a few coppers, it means a lot to those in need. Good on ya Tom and shame on the rest of the tight sods.

Posted by Ian I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 4:56pm

Mike i mean.. not Tom.. :)

Posted by Sarah I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 5:02pm
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Posted by Ian I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 5:17pm

I think people are missing the point. Mike set out to "see how people in Barnsley town centre would respond" Not to see if he could survive a day being homeless, not to see what it was REALLY LIKE being homeless.... but to see how WE, the public in this town, react to homelessness. Mike proved without a doubt that there a far to many people just walk on by, instead of sparing a bit of change. Like a said.. Shameful.

Posted by Jesus I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 6:41pm

I understand what the point of this article is about, but how do you expect people to give their cash to people who are less fortunate? We dont know how they got their? (Did they do wrong? Is it their own fault?) We have no idea who we would be 'giving' our hard earned cash to. Those people also have bills to pay and lives to lead.. if you ask too much of these people it will make their day sad, it will cost them a fortune and it most likely will make it really easy for people to lie about being homeless and abuse the way that the homeless receive money. In the long story, you will see more homeless people (from jobs but now homeless because they have given too much away - it always starts small first! Before you become a charity yourself) or you will see an influx of fakers, addicts and children playing the game to earn extra cash for no reason. If you are homeless you should turn to charities, not the streets. Articles like this just prey on the working people out there to give to every homeless person they see to avoid feeling sorry.

Posted by kazza I Sat 15th Feb 2014 at 7:48pm

I never give money , not because I'm mean, but not everyone who asks for money is genuine. I buy The Big Issue because I know it actually helps genuine homeless people, and they cant claim benefits as a seller .

Posted by PC I Sun 16th Feb 2014 at 1:04am

Totally agree with Ian...Barnsley folk are the tightest people in the world! There are even famous sayings and versus about their miserly ways. I am sure that the first words to come out of a new born Barnsley baby are, How Much"?

Posted by GLOOP I Sun 16th Feb 2014 at 8:49pm
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Posted by Sallie I Mon 17th Feb 2014 at 5:08am

Decades ago Barnsley people would have given the skin off their backs to people less fortunate as themselves. What's going on?

Posted by Bobby I Mon 17th Feb 2014 at 8:40pm

I don't think its the people that are tight, but when someone on the street is asking for 50p for the phone you know where its really going. I once offered a homeless guy £10 when I saw him searching through the public bins and all I got was aggro off him.

Posted by Glum I Mon 17th Feb 2014 at 9:30pm
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Posted by John I Tue 18th Feb 2014 at 12:07pm

Worth bearing in mind that many homeless charities advise people to give to schemes for the homeless rather than to the homeless themselves. This way they can be sure the money isn't spent on drugs.

Posted by Ray I Tue 18th Feb 2014 at 1:38pm
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Posted by cariline woodcock I Wed 19th Feb 2014 at 10:50am

You're obviously doing it wrong love.I knew (T.B)a friend of the big issue seller who USED TO work the area near sport direct (NOT TO INSULT THE GENUINE HOMELESS PEOPLE/BIG ISSUE PEOPLE )and he told me he could beg upto £110 A DAY IN BARNSLEY! (EVEN in his brand new tracksuit and trainers)!I have seen his home and it's full of new furniture and clothes (and a stash of purses under a setee)

Posted by cariline woodcock I Wed 19th Feb 2014 at 11:06am

re my previous comment I am excersising my RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND NEED TO TELL IT AS I KNOW IT(SUE ME TERRY).The problem with donating to any charities is THEY ARE SIMPLY NOT HELPFUL TO PEOPLE,ALL people such as shelter do is they tell people what they ALREADY KNOW,I WAS HAVING PROBLEMS WITH MY LANDLORD (EVICTION NOTICE),I CALLED FOR ADVICE,WAS TOLD I NEEDED AN APPOINTMENT BUT COULDN'T SEE ANYONE FOR 4 MONTHS.The donated money doesn't provide homes for anyone ,IT'S NO WONDER PEOPLE TURN TO DRINK OR DRUGS EVEN IF THEY COULD GET A BOND THE LANDLORDS IN BARNSLEY ARE SO STUCK UP A MILLIONAIRE WOULD STRUGGLE TO GET A PLACE,IT'S ALL ""GUARANTORS AND CREDIT CHECKS"NOW ("NO BOND" SIMPLY MEANS IT'S RENT IN ADVANCE INSTEAD AND OF COURSE IT'S NON REFUNDABLE AND BARNSLEY IS NOT VERY PLEASANT PLACE WITH NOT PLEASANT PEOPLE AS IT IS .I wonder WHAT EXACTLY DO CHARITIES FIND TO SPEND MONEY ON WHEN ALL THEY DO IS ANSWER THE PHONE?

Posted by chrissie I Fri 21st Feb 2014 at 12:59am

charities are now money making adventures..!high overheads big salarys for management...volenteers:mostly disabled who they exploit:job centre uses it as a form of employment to continue their benifits!..when remploy was around disabled people were made to feel valued fair days work for fair days pay..!how many charity managers""have any dealings with the causes or undestand????its a job to them

Posted by John I Tue 2nd Dec 2014 at 4:01am

So you took £1.22 off a woman who maybe didn't have much money anyway? That's called a scam where I come from.

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