Saturday 19 November 2022

Off-topic / no technical content: I have a dilemma


This is off-topic and has no technical content to it at all. It is about a personal situation I have. This is the only place I have to post large wodges of text publicly, hence putting it here. And hey it's my blog: I'll post what I want ;-)

I have a dilemma.

Context / history

My neighbour and I share a front door to the street, and we had got onto nodding terms with each other. When her new baby arrived I fussed a bit over the new wee girl and got to talking more. My neighbour has three girls, approximately 15, 8, <1. They live in a flat that is at most 2 bedrooms. It will be like mine, which is to say it will be very very basic.

She is on a key meter for her electricty, and these display the balance on the meter, which is inside the front door, so I pass it daily. Often (once a month? Every coupla months?) it's in the red, and their power is off.

We each pay for one of the lights in the shared area (stairs, hallway to the front door), and I have been making a point of giving her £20 every few months to cover her share of it.

She has had bailiffs around chasing her ex, who owes the council money for parking fines.

She has had the police around to escort her current partner away from the flat, as he was being abusive. He is, btw, back.

Someone from a charity brought a bag of food around "for the lady who lives upstairs with the kids. She looks like she could do with some food".

I think it's reasonable to say she's struggling with life.

Recently she came to me in a flap saying she hd a debt she needed to pay now, and she couldn't and could she borrow £20? I offered £50, and she did not hesitate to take it. I told her she did not have to pay me back as I could afford it, and she needed it more than me. This is not terribly altruistic of me: I give £50 to charity each month, and that month I gave it to her instead. [shrug].

A few weeks later she texted me saying she needed another £20 in her account as she needed to pay a bill urgently. And she'd pay me back. I transferred £50, and reassured her she didn't need to pay me back, but that we can't keep operating like this.

She's knocked on the door to give me £20 back - I reiterated she didn't need to but she insisted - but within the day she meekly came back and asked if she could take it back again. Because reasons. Fine.

This is all fine. Thusfar.

However now she is texting me every week almost for more money, and I have drawn a line under this enterprise saying "look, 'borrowing' money from your neighbour is not a workable way of solving your issues. I don't know what is, but this has to stop. Please don't ask me for more money".

The calls/texts continue. I am ignoring them. She is still friendly when I meet her on the landing or on the street.

She has actually paid back the £120 she ended up "owing" me. I asked he to keep it: she refused.

Here is my dilemma

She's broke. The UK is not a good place to be broke. Social services are struggling, food banks are struggling. Really a lot of people are struggling. I don't want anyone reading this as anything as a fact that is contextually significant: she is from an eastern European country, her English is not great and I suspect her education is not great either. She does not appear to have any family over here.

On the other hand I am not struggling. I can afford to just give her the money (and I can also afford to also keep giving £££ to charity each month too if I wanted to). I'm not a fountain of cash, but £50 here or there doesn't matter.

Theoretically I stand by my position of "asking yer neighbour for money is not a sustainable solution to your problems". But she has kids who need to eat & have a roof & be warm. Should theoretical economics trump hungry kids?

I have found myself thinking "this is not my problem" or "this should not *be* my problem". But it's my neighbour. Someone in my community. Who needs help and has asked for help.

Whether or not the govt or local council should be dealing with this is neither here nor there. We have a shit, evil (actually evil) government, and we know they don't give a shit about poor people. I can't change the govt (other than one vote at a time), but I can change this situation maybe.

I feel I am being more "middle-class" than I am being a caring person. But all the points above nag at me. I'm currently holding the position of "no, no more money; I am not the solution to your problems". But I suspect I might be mistaken, or being overly "priveleged" about this because I can afford to prevaricate over principles vs hunger.

Thoughts? And if you don't wanna put them publicly here, my email address is on the blog's Communications policy page. Or a lot of my readers know other channels to ping me on and discuss.