The photograph above and below was taken at Gamla Stan, the Old Town in Stockholm. Roughly translated it means please give to the homeless, though you wouldn’t need to speak Swedish to understand, as there are similar handwritten signs all over the world.
Though you sometimes see people on the street walk away from, avoid eyesight with, and otherwise “not engage” with people who are homeless, or are asking for money on the streets, I’m not, generally, one of those people. If I have change, and if I’m not in too much of a hurry, I’ll usually stop and reach into my pocket when someone asks me for help. Scammers aside, I figure it takes a lot of courage for someone to walk up to a complete stranger and ask them for help.
But things are changing. As we’re moving to a cashless society, I’ve found myself often without any cash at all in my pockets. If I catch public transport to work, I’ll use my Opal Card. Most days, I’ll order my coffee through an app. At lunch, I’ll usually swipe my debit card. I keep a jar full of coins on my desk for mid-afternoon chocolates or soft-drinks. So by and large, I don’t carry cash anymore.
If everyone ends up like me, what does that mean for people living on the streets, asking for cash?
Though it’s an issue here in Australia, I chose to show the photo I took in Stockholm to illustrate the story, as Sweden is well on track to become the first cashless society.