Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“Your Kindness Could Kill"

Walking down the picturesque streets of Oxford, surrounded by swanky stores and restaurants, my rhythm is occasionally thrown off by a small plea from below: “Can you spare some change, ma’am?”  I’m sure this has happened to most of us since our stay at Oxford. The first few times, I pulled out my wallet and parted with a few pounds.  But day after day, I would see the same young, healthy-looking men asking for money.  I didn’t want to judge their situation, but I couldn’t help thinking they looked able-bodied enough to get a job. 

One day, a woman shoved a flyer in my hand on the street.  The title of it was “Your Kindness Could Kill.”  As you can see in the photo above, it was an ad urging tourists and Oxford locals not to give money to the people on the street, because  “the money you give people begging is often spent of heroin, crack cocaine, alcohol, and other drugs that will ultimately kill them.”  Instead, the flyer encouraged tourists to give donations to local charities.  I thought this was very interesting, because in the States, I’ve never been handed any kind of flyer like this – even in Athens where panhandling is a pretty big problem.  I this ad relates on multiple levels to what we’ve been discussing in class this week.  It had clear elements of stereotyping and violence.  The ad clearly stereotypes all people begging for money in Oxford as drug addicts.  It also is violent in it’s message, and it’s image.  The message states that these homeless men will die at your hand if you give them money.  Secondly, the image on the ad is pretty dark.  The image is of a body outline covered in the “spare change” given by generous people, like yourself. 

I was also somewhat surprised to see the government URL on the flyer.  I’m not sure exactly how the system works here in England, but in the U.S., if the government were to endorse a program like this, the problem would have to be deep and highly important.  It made me think about Athens.  I wonder if these flyers actually make a difference, or if they’re just increasing the tension between the homeless and the Oxford locals.  


  1. I think this ad relates so much to this week's topic on stereotyping and how the media group people together. However, like any other stereotype, I'm sure there is some truth to this ad, and that some of the panhandlers do use the money you give them to buy drugs. Although the message is harsh, I think it means well by offering an alternative way to donate money through charities. That way, you are certain your money will go towards basic needs rather than supporting a drug addiction.
    With all this being said, I do find it interesting that there is a government URL address on the flyer. It makes me wonder if the government is actually a contributor to this ad or if the person who made it just put the address on it without permission. If the government is behind this ad, it also makes me wonder if the person handing out the flyer is a paid employee or just a volunteer. Either way, I think you are right that we would most likely not see an ad like this in the US with a government's URL address on it.

  2. I've never been handed a flyer in Athens about withholding money from the homeless, but I have noticed metal boxes attached to lampposts around downtown that request people put money in these containers instead of giving money to the homeless themselves. Being a very sympathetic person, it always saddens me to pass by somebody living on the street; and while I wish I could help them, I know giving them my spare change won't do much. I agree with what Athens does and, essentially, with what Oxford is doing with these flyers; I haven't seen one myself yet, but I believe your opinion of the flyer, and think that the message seems a little extreme. I know they're looking out for citizens, but I don't think ALL homeless people are drug and alcohol addicts, and I don't necessarily think that giving them a few coins will kill them. It's an extreme measure to take, but then again, most of advertising is about catching someone's attention in a flashy way.

  3. From what I've been told about the situation in Oxford, the homeless are pretty well taken care of by the government. Perhaps that's why you shouldn't supplement their income. I haven't investigated too much into it, but several locals here have told me after I felt bad about the dogs the homeless people were using that both the dogs and homeless have shelters they can sleep at. For example, to sell The Big Issue one must be homeless from what I've been told. I do find it interesting that the government would endorse a program that was so sensationalized. Sure, in Athens there are signs that discourage panhandling, but I don't think our government would get involved. Then again, the government here is a lot more involved. I do think it's interesting though that there would be a campaign for this. What a way to waste money, but I guess if the government really is taking care of these people, any money IS supplementary.

  4. I find it very interesting that people took the time and effort to make and hand out flyers about not giving money to homeless people. The message does seem very stereotypical, but as with all stereotypes, there is probably some truth in it. People become homeless for a reason, and unfortunately for many homeless people(whether in Oxford or Athens) the reason can be drug abuse. Although I am sure that the people handing out the flyer do mean well, I can't help thinking that it is just a waste of time. Instead of telling strangers not to give homeless people money, maybe come up with some kind of government funded rehab program? For me this has never been an issue; I am a culprit of stereotyping homeless people as drug abusers and alcoholics. However, like you I do want to help people who are in such a desperate situation. Giving to an organization can be a good idea, but for me the best way to directly help has been to give somebody in this position a hot meal and something to drink.

  5. One of the Grady PR campaigns classes worked on this project for Athens last year. The Athens community charities are working to promote the program of giving in the boxes Rachel mentioned to help the homeless population in the area. Students were one of the groups of people they hoped to make aware of the project.