a homeless panhandler's gentle approach in Edinburgh, Scotland

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 11 Jun 1998 13:49:03 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  http://www.scotsman.com/news/ne05begg980520.1.html

     By Tanya Thompson

 MARK McLeish slept rough in a graveyard last night, joining the growing
band of Edinburgh's homeless who beg on the streets.

 The 26-year-old is always courteous when asking for money.

 Sitting on the station steps in Market Street, his takings for the day
amount to just 98p in small change but he greets all passers-by with a
friendly smile and is still polite when they refuse his requests for cash.

 "I spent the night in a graveyard in the West End," he explained. "I've
been homeless before in 1992 but managed to get myself a job labouring. I'm
just relieved it's not winter. I can't see me doing this for long. It's
pretty grim, and I'm only doing it until I get back on my feet."

 Mark has managed to conform to the beggars' code of conduct by being
polite to his customers, but he has failed at least one of the criteria -
by being on Railtrack property.

 He asked: "I know I'm taking a risk by begging here on private property,
but what choice do I have?"

 "You've noticed that I'm pleasant to people and I don't harass them.
There's no point in that if you are wanting to make money. It seems a good
idea to have these guidelines for beggars, provided everyone follows them.
But you can't guarantee people will behave in the same way."

 Mark says a by-law banning him from the streets would be a disaster,
leading him to continue begging but face prosecution.

 It could be argued that he has already broken Rule 3 of the beggars' code
- obstructing or physically preventing the public from passing. Others
could see it as breaking Rule 7 by being too pushy.

 But Mark is convinced the public do not mind him asking for charity,
provided he does not go too far. "I haven't had a single complaint. In the
past when I've been on the streets people have been very supportive.

 "Surely they'd rather I begged than stole or broke into someone's house.
If people are driven off the streets, they will have to get the money from
somewhere. Most of us would rather have a decent job and a roof over our
head, rather than having to rely on other people's charity. Wouldn't you?"


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