Should we be giving the homeless what they want instead of what they need? 143



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For years, the Government and charity groups have been helping homeless people by giving them things that they need – a room for a night, some food or some money. But should we be trying another approach? Should we give them what they want instead?

Approximately 1 in every 200 people in Australia are homeless, according to Homelessness Australia, and one man is trying a different way of appeasing the homeless – he’s giving them cigarettes.

Sam Cee launched his campaign and has raised over $5000 so that he can make up packs to hand out to Sydney’s homeless. Newscorp reports that he gives out packs that include “a 25 gram pouch of tobacco, rolling papers, filters, a lighter, pair of socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, a permanent marker, and a crisp $5 note”.

On his GoFundMe page, Mr Cee said, “Okay, I’m in talks with a tobacco wholesaler in Melbourne. He might be able to cut me a great deal but the shipping over the holiday period may cause a slight delay. I’m currently pricing packs for 150 people. By my very rough estimates this will give a 25 gram pouch of tobacco, rollies, filters, a lighter, pair of socks, stick of deodorant, and a few coins for some 7/11 coffee and possibly a bit left over which can go towards either more packs or a local charity. Now this is 50 less packs than I originally planned but the overall quality of the packs has increased exponentially. I’ll just have to make sure I target the most disadvantaged in our area to have a greater effect”.

In the past, similar campaigns have come under fire for giving cigarettes to the homeless as some believe it encourages an unhealthy habit. But does that matter? Aren’t they going to smoke anyway? Shouldn’t they be able to have a little luxury too?

A Swedish charity called Omsorgsjul – Hemlösa gave gifts to those without shelter, including hats, warm clothes, chocolate and cigarettes. At the time, Lennart Cederberg, a charity executive, told the local Folkbladet newspaper,“They smoke all the time anyway”.

Around 80 per cent of homeless adults smoke, if US statistics are anything to go by. “Come and help them and make sure they receive accommodation instead of whining,” Cederberg said. He also said that it keeps homeless people from picking cigarettes out of bins or gutters, so in a way, it keeps them healthy.

Mr Cee also defended his campaign by saying, “Did you know being homeless and destitute sucks? Well, I asked three random homeless people and they told me so. This may be a shock to some of you but fear not for I have figured out an easy way to absolve yourself of your cozy western middle class guilt: cigarettes for the homeless. They don’t need cigarettes, they don’t need coffee. I know, but I don’t care. I don’t want to lift them out of the gutter, that’s a job for themselves. I just want to give some temporary comfort for people who spend their life enduring instead of flourishing”.


Do you agree with his logic? Or should the funds be used to get them off the streets? Tell us below.

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  1. My conscience won’t allow me to waste my money on things which will kill people, including the homeless. I always offer to buy some food for those in need and and some have accepted help in this way. In hindsight, maybe I should have offered some hygiene products, as it must be awful not being able to wipe one’s face and hands. Women have their own special needs as well.

  2. I think we should look after our own stop giving money to people, countries, who don’t appreciate it

    8 REPLY
    • We have problems of our own here that needs solving . But we are sending money and goods because it is expected to all other countries, and neglect the needs face here. Lets get our priorities in order

    • At least you didn’t get the Nasty remarks I did Marianne prendergast, why do people have to be nasty without knowing the circumstances, at least we agree!!

    • There are many people who are so holy, so pious, who never drink, swear, gamble or do anything wrong and who never really understand. While we are tempted to offer housing etc to the homeless, sometimes maybe they need a coffee and cigarette just to get by for the moment. Maybe we just need to be them for a while.

    • I don’t deny Vanuatu they deserve and need , millions to Indonesia , I don’t agree so Jenny Cathcart read between the lines don’t jump to conclusions. Stay on topic people, keep it nice.

  3. Relocate them to country areas, where and if there are vacant houses, in dying towns, that should help the ecomony , they would be getting welfare no matter where they are, so they can do their bit by spending the money in the town. By giving them – cigerettes, which in the long term- KILL, maybe that is the way to thin them out, just saying.

    4 REPLY
    • Maybe give them the choice of this. Most “down and outs” have lost or had removed all opportunities of choice.
      I feel that giving some of this back to them is a start.
      I also think that we all are only about four steps away from living in our cars or on the streets too.
      Lets be kind to those who are in this position.
      We dont know what brought them there. What their story is.

    • I live in one of the country towns. We already have enormous problems, high unemployment and welfare. Plus we are dealing with many problems such as drought that you in the cities don’t
      Sorry. But I think we are pretty pushed already Marilyn hinds

    • I’m gobsmacked Marilyn Hinds. This problem is far more complicated than you seem to think. How will those small country town who already have enough problems of their own to cope with (I will spare you all the list as you know it already) even a small number of these folk. I don’t pretend to have any answers but I am fairly sure this is not it.

  4. I don’t have any middle class guilt. I hate that these people choose such a dreadful life, but after several years getting to know many street people in London where I worked, i accept that this is the road they choose. Very few will conform to society enough to settle in a home. I would give blankets, food etc. but not money, alcohol or cigs.

    16 REPLY
    • Maybe some choose to live this way but most don’t sit down one day and say ‘from now on I will be homeless’. There are many circumstances that cause this. But like so many “caring” citizens you have banded them all together under the one umbrella. Sadly we as a society do this with so many things. We have lost compassion , caring and understanding of anyone less fortunate then our self. Its actually disgusting to group all under the umbrella of a few.

    • Whether it is their life style choice or not is not the issue. No I would not ever give them cigarettes or alcohol. How can this possibly be helping them? Brainless idea.

    • I’m perfectly aware of that Sharon, hence the words ‘very few’ instead of generalising. I was a police officer, we knew all our homeless locals very well. We took them into the station to stop them freezing and have a feed, we took them to hospital if we thought they needed it, we put them in contact with organisations who could and would help them. I really won’t be told I don’t understand. We understood them all as individuals probably more than anyone else in their lives.

      1 REPLY
      • I like this Linda and I think there are many more good sides to Police Officers than those, that others see. I have a great respect for the job they do. I don’t doubt for a moment if you saw someone truly in need that police officers would not at least try to help.

    • I know someone who was a police officer and the things they have told.. about homeless ppl… some have come from broken marriages where the x has taken everything from them.. and he used to say just like u Linda how they would take them back to the police station so they can have a decent bed to sleep in and some food and a shower they also had clean clothes put away..he said one fellar was so grateful he had tears in his eyes and couldn’t say thank u enough… also years ago I used to walk down the side street where the Salvation Army Gill (that is where homeless go for a bed) there was this old man long white beard long white hair .. long fingernails but he always said good morning young lady to me at first I was scared but he was always sitting there counting his threepence and sixpence I stopped one day to talk to him he was a very well mannerd man and spoke very well.. he said I was the only female who spoke to him without a mouth full of abuse.. I felt sorry for him and at Christmas I gave him a parcel of socks.. jocks..tobacco and papers… and new shirt he was soo grateful.. we need to give them a proper place to live why not change these empty warehouses into 1bed sits with someone to make sure they have proper food and the rule should be u stuff up and out u go…

    • You are SO right Cheryl, they all have their own story, a lot of them very sad. We counted them as friends and would grieve them when we found them diseased. There are always ‘rules’ for people given homes, sadly homeless people often don’t want a bar of any rules. They very much walk their own journey.

    • About 10 years ago in my town, and old homeless man died, he was well know around town so everyone was upset, he was very proud and would not accept anything off anyone, you had to drop a sandwich or a drink and walk off and pretend you tossed it away. After his death they found out he was a millionaire, but he was mentally ill. He left his money to charity. You just never know what drives people to the streets

    • Yes, some brilliant, successful people can end up living like that. Most of them did not appreciate obvious help, but learnt who they could trust to reach out to when they really needed help. They often had family who had tried and tried to turn things around for them, but had eventually let go of them. The biggest thing I learnt very quickly was to not show I felt sorry for them, a pet hate. They rarely feel sorry for themselves.

    • There but for the grace of circumstances we don’t need to sleep rough. Namaste, homeless, I see you in your little bed dings in the city and I gotta say you go to bed earlier than I do. I feel humble in my bed and I whinge about the uncomfortablity of it. Next time I pass which isn’t often I will give thanks for how cushy I really do have it, your choice is not so terrible perhaps you are more free than thee

    • Very well said Linda you see so much that ordinary citizens don’t see and so do nurses and in my working life I saw a lot too re the homeless coming in to emergency needing to be cleaned up etc.

  5. Many homeless people are on the streets because they cant afford rent. These should be given shelter (permanent). Why not ask them – some no doubt would welcome shelter, while others the gift.

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