Today I fell into a chance discussion with a "gentleman of the road" one of the "homeless".
What quickly became apparent was that Tom (a psuedonym) despite all appearances was not an uneducated man, and well up to date on current affairs.
Soon the conversation turned to the situation of the Syrian refugees and the tremendous effort expended by the state and the voluntary helpers here in Germany. What surprised me was the bitterness he felt towards the many voluntary helpers.
The question he asked, was: "Where were all these volunteers when he and others were forced by circumstances onto the streets?"
His feeling was that it had become "fashionable" for the "well off" to help in this way and that it was bad enough being abandoned by society, but added insult to injury when there was such a huge civil mobilisation for this one group of people.
I must admit to feeling very conflicted about the conversation. There are people I know who have joined the effort and are working hard and unpaid to help refugees. They are justly proud of their work.
I feel the motive behind his opinion was neither mean spirited nor racist, but founded on all too real experience of human nature. His fears too, that the few and scant resources that might have been available to him will melt away under the massive demand created by the refugees and that competition in the black market of occasional labour (the only labour market open to him) will increase, all too probable.
And he has a point: Where was I? Where were we?