On the Radio 4 Today programme Richard Gere, a famous Hollywood actor for the last thirty years, says that we should give money to the homeless as it it is “mutually generous”.
Richard Gere has said people should hand cash to beggars even if they are going to use the money to buy drugs and alcohol. The Hollywood star, 66, said the ‘moment of compassion’ that comes with giving money ‘heals’ both people and is more important than trying to wean homeless people off their addictions.
He added: ‘The reality is compassion is part of community. That’s how we’re all retrievable. It doesn’t matter what they do with the money. The generosity from our side of giving it heals us, them understanding that this is a genuine act of generosity heals them. It’s not up to us to tell them what they should do with that money?’
He’s been talking about homeless people as he starred in a film in 2014 called Time Out of Mind playing a homeless man in New York which was mostly filmed with hidden cameras. It’s a 15 rating and though it did well at film festivals it wasn’t so well liked by the general public.
That’s Richard Gere on the left in the film.
Even less well liked are Richard’s comments about giving money to the homeless! Jeremy Swain, chief executive of charity Thames Reach, took exception to his comments and posted on Twitter: ‘Rarely heard worse luvvie drivel than Richard Gere saying giving money to someone begging ‘the generosity heals them’ Richard it kills them’. He then added to the Daily Mail yesterday: ‘Why not cut out the middle person and just give money straight to the drug dealer? It’s that certain.
Mr Swain, who has worked to tackle homelessness for 35 years, said the ‘reckless’ interview undermines the work done by more than 30 charities nationwide who have called on people not to give money to beggars. He added: ‘For him to talk about giving money to people on the street being an act of generosity that heals them, it is very difficult to stomach. What we see is that the connection is largely between drug use and begging, not homelessness and begging, all the police statistics show that. He’s made my life more difficult but more importantly he’s made the lives of the outreach workers on the street more difficult and most importantly he’s putting more people at risk by saying this.’
Official figures show that only one in five beggars in England and Wales are homeless and that as many as 80 percent of beggars arrested are found to have drugs such as heroin in their systems.
What do you do when you see someone begging? Ignore, acknowledge their existence with a wry smile, give money or give food?
Just in case you’re wondering if Richard Gere adheres to any faith: he’s a Buddhist. As a practising Buddhist, who meditates daily and campaigns for Tibet, Gere believes we are all looking for healing. “I could live with that as a description of a lot of my films,” he says. Meanwhile his search for healing off screen has provoked anger. He was booed and accused of being un-American at a benefit concert for the victims of the 11 September attacks when he said: “We have to learn how to forgive.” He has “total confidence” that his search for Nirvana through non-violence, forgiveness and compassion is “the right path”.