What have you ever done for homeless people?

No, that Facebook post doesn’t count.

Cambridge cambridge students Facebook homeless Homelessness jimmy's jimmy's night shelter jimmy's shelter money money burning

Yes, burning a £20 note in front of a homeless person was a terrible thing to do –  even the guy who did it would admit that. But how are you helping anyone if all you do is condemn him on Facebook? Liking a mildly amusing post on Grudgebridge doesn’t make you a social justice warrior.

Everyone has been speaking out about how appalling the former CUCA committee member’s behaviour was, but the same people who are publicly judging him, ignore rough sleepers every time they’re asked for change. Sitting and speaking to homeless people gives the slightest insight into what it’s like to be completely invisible to 99% of society.

Please don’t be part of that majority if you pretend to care on Facebook. Your ‘activism’ on social media doesn’t give you any moral high-ground. It doesn’t mean that you’ve done your act of good for the day, so are exempt from loving and caring about other humans until you angry-react to a post about Donald Trump tomorrow.

#activism

Before coming to Cambridge, my perception of the university meant that I didn’t think that I would fit in as an ethnic minority from a state school in Lewisham. If this story had come out before I applied to Cambridge, it would have reinforced my views of what Cambridge was like and deterred me from applying and it will almost certainly have the same effect on prospective applicants, preventing them from applying here over the next couple of years.

Admittedly, posting about the note-burning incident on Facebook highlights how Cambridge students look down on these actions and so does a little to help repair the damage that has been done to the university’s reputation, but on its own, such a post is not enough.

This is just one case of slacktivism, a problem that continues to grow, as shown by the increased usage of online petition sites over the past few years. While these petitions can be effective, your signature in isolation is minimal in its use, compared with the potential you have to help a cause through other actions.

Action speaks louder than words

This week’s most popular petition on Change.org is petitioning Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, encouraging her to ‘Respect the Rights of Young Refugees’, by adhering to the Immigration Act and transferring at least 3000 children to the UK from other European countries. While this is a very positive petition (which I implore everyone to sign), volunteering at a refugee camp or simply donating to a refugee charity would help the wider cause far more than just signing the petition.

Carry on liking, reacting and sharing grudges, crushes and memes (and benches now too), but if you really care about the homeless problem in Cambridge, then please don’t let your efforts stop there.

Big Issue sellers are seen all over Cambridge

On behalf of Pembroke College’s Junior Parlour Committee (why can’t we just call it a JCR, like every other college?), I set-up the ‘University of Cambridge £20 Homelessness Fundraiser’. All money raised goes straight to Jimmy’s Cambridge to provide food, accommodation and support to homeless people to give them a future.

Please make a real difference by donating here.