A weekly reporter pretended to be a homeless person in a town centre for the day to see how people would respond.
Barnsley Chronicle journalist Mike Cotton decided to experience life in the shoes of a beggar but collected just £1.22 on a rainy Wednesday morning in the South Yorkshire town.
After placing himself on a bench wearing trainers, jogging bottoms and a hooded top, David asked anyone who passed within a few feet if they could spare anything.
He said that it took less than five minutes of sitting on the bench asking people for spare change, before he felt “almost invisible.”
Mike recounted his experiences in a first-person piece on the Barnsley Chronicle website.
“I held a dirty mug out towards the passing crowds. I counted, and within one hour, I had asked 150 people. Most ignored me and kept their eyes straight ahead. Some turned to look at me and quickly turned away,” he wrote.
“A couple apologised that they ‘didn’t have anything’. Only one person put anything into the mug.
“She was a kind-faced lady with long white hair and a purple coat. I caught her eye, and as she passed, asked: “Could you spare any change, please?”
“She stopped on the spot, but didn’t turn to look at me. She rummaged in her purse, neither of us spoke.
“She broke the awkward silence after what seemed like minutes, by dropping a handful of silver coins and a couple of coppers into the mug – £1.22, and said: “I’m sorry love, this is all I have”.
“In the fleeting glance she passed me, she looked genuinely sorry she didn’t have more. She looked very sad that I was doing this – begging on the streets. I’d been there nearly an hour, and had planned to stay for several more.”
Although the number of homeless people has fallen across Barnsley by more than half in recent years, Mike felt it was important to bring the problem to light.
He was eventually moved on by a police officer despite the authority being pre-warned about his undercover feature.
“Her superiors knew what I was doing and said they would tell officers to leave me alone, but the message clearly hadn’t filtered down the chain of command,” he wrote.
“I was only there for an hour, but it was enough to make me think hard about the people who don’t have a warm house and a bath or shower to go home to.”