Begging and Beggars: London Borough of Havering, August 2018

Just the other day*, my wife and I went to Sainsbury’s in Hornchurch High Street. We passed three beggars sitting near the entrance – none actually saying anything, each looking pathetic. I suppose the older woman seemed more needful, but I stolidly refused to put my hand in my pocket, even though I had lots of loose change.

Whilst my wife was in Sainsbury’s I went to the pub next door. Seated by a window inside, I absently minded noticed yet another beggar across the road. He had a cardboard plaque with some message that was too far away to see properly. Then, blow me down if yet another younger man this time sat just the other side of the window I was looking through. I didn’t see anyone give money to either of the two that I could see, but I did see a gaunt man I suppose to be about mid-forties approach the beggar on the other side of the street and some money was paid by the beggar. The man then immediately approach the other on outside my window. More money was paid over, I think in coins as I didn’t see any paper notes.

Later, when I told my wife what I had seen we both speculated, what it might have been! Was the gaunt man renting pitches for beggars? Was he perhaps running a protection racket? Could I have seen money given for drugs being paid around mid-day on the open busy high street with hundreds of people innocently shopping or just gossiping while pushing babies in prams? Whatever it was I couldn’t help thinking how desperate must life get to make them beg openly on the street?

Or, are they not begging for enough money to buy food I expect we have all heard stories about beggars who choose to live that life and make a tidy sum each day out of it. I have heard a most fantastic story of some beggars or was it some buskers making £500 a day.

As it so happened on that very day when we got back to the estate where we live. I learned about David. He lived with his Step Mum all his life, but she sadly died earlier this year. When the Council were notified, their records show that she’d inherited the two-bed flat when her husband died. As there’s a strict rule on tenancies only to be inherited once, David was ineligible to inherit.

David is working as a pump attendant in an all night garage in Hornchurch earning the minimum wage. I think Mum used to subsidise his poor wage by dipping into her Old Age Pension. It was therefore a huge shock for David to learn how expensive food was. It came as an even bigger shock to learn that the Council had no single bed flats to rent to him and that he would have to seek a private let tenancy on the open market.

David is in his mid-fifties now and currently can show total financial assets of £28,000. (I think his Mum had some life insurance.) However, at an interview with the Council he was informed that he can only receive income support once his assets are reduced down to £16,000. That shouldn’t take too long given the eye watering high rents private landlords charge for the most meagre accommodation these days. As David explained, he can’t get a better paid job as he has no skills. His assets have got to last at least ten years until he’s eligible for old age pension, or if the pension age is  increased possibly for the rest of his life!

I can easily see David living rough on the streets in just a couple of years from now, if he doesn’t receive some good advice on his future.

*August 2018



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