Have you heard about ‘suspended coffee’, the new occurrence where a customer will go into a coffee shop, ask for a hot drink for themselves and another (or more) ‘suspended’? They pay for the total number ordered. Then, people who are homeless, out of work, or just short of money can walk into a coffee shop and ask if there are any ‘suspended’ coffees. If there are, they will be served a hot drink free of charge.
There is now a ‘Suspended Coffee’ Facebook page
I have misgivings about the whole thing, and that makes me feel quite guilty. Of course I don’t want to deny anyone a hot drink, particularly when it is as cold as it has been. But I wonder whether it is the best way to help those who are homeless or destitute.
Over the years I have been asked whether you should give money to those begging on the streets. It is an individual decision, and my personal choice is not to.
Of course it must be up to the individual to decide whether they wish to buy a ‘suspended coffee’ for someone. They will need to have confidence that the retailer will, in fact, pass on the coffee to the intended beneficiary.
It is a shame that the tax affairs of one of the largest coffee chains seeks to minimise its tax liabilities, although it is unlikely that homeless people would benefit from normalising their tax affairs.
I am somewhat of a hypocrite. At BHT we constantly ask for donations, in cash and in kind, to help those men and women who are in the greatest need. We have an Amazon wish list (another company with its own tax controversy) where we ask people to buy essential items for clients including thermal underwear, socks, and coats.
During summer heat waves (for those who can’t remember that far back, a heat wave is “a prolonged period of excessively hot weather”!) we have been grateful to the wonderful people at Life Water who have donated thousands of bottles of water to help keep our clients hydrated.
So why is it ok for me to encourage gifts through BHT to our clients, rather than a more immediate act of giving? The only justification I can give is that we are an organisation that promotes change, and your gifts to us might help us engage and assist people off the streets.
But there again, I am not sure. My colleague Rob Robinson is a great fan of ‘Suspended Coffee’. He says that those people who are on the streets are excluded on so many levels. By experiencing the atmosphere of a coffee shop, they might just reassess their aspirations and seek help.
I’m confused. I guess I will just have to suspend a final judgement.