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Melanie Morris: As a woman in the city I'm sick of organised, intimidating begging

It's really hard to say this without appearing heartless, but I've had it with beggars. And I'm not surprised to read that in a recent survey, approximately 89pc of Dublin's population feel the same.

We're sick of being hassled as we walk down the street, or as we try to take cash from an ATM, or as we pop in to a late- night store for a pint of milk.

Because whatever commercial threshold we cross, there seems to be the omnipresent beggar perched in waiting, Styrofoam cup at the ready, asking you to "spare some change".

It got so bad and there were so many beggars patrolling the more popular city centre patches, you almost had to run the gauntlet to get from Stephen's Green to Trinity.

Thankfully, things have been getting a bit better of late, since the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act -- something useful that Dermot Ahern did in February before retiring. But it was well overdue.

The streets of Dublin were being treated like a giant one- armed bandit, as chancers -- both Irish and immigrant -- would just take a punt, asking anyone passing for a few quid.

Those in cars weren't much safer. What were once kids with windscreen cloths more recently became women selling lucky charms through windows. You couldn't stop at traffic lights without being pestered to pieces.

In the past, I've felt sympathetic for those who appear less fortunate. It's something I learned from my mother.

Back in my student days, I'd tell her not to be mad for giving her cash to beggars, that the guy was "probably going to spend it all on drugs". My very soft-hearted mother then would say, "Well, if it makes his evening easier, or if he doesn't have to steal from someone ... "

To this day, my mum still buys hot chocolate for the Romanian lady outside the AIB in Donnybrook. Even though we all know she disappears in August to oversee her B&B businesses back home.

But I experienced something recently which changed decades of my ingrained 'giving' in a second.

It happened early one evening as I returned to the Brown Thomas car park. As usual, I was laden with bags (although, as other members of the IMAGE team will attest, these bags were possibly full of samples to be photographed and returned, not necessarily purchases for myself).

Regardless of whether working or shopping, the guilt factor was high as I struggled past the homeless guy at the entrance -- a guy I'd come to recognise over time, and who knew me too. As always, he asked for money, and as always, I promised I'd return with the change from the car park.

I paid for my ticket, and scooped up the euro-or-so that came with it. Except, as I headed back out to hand over the coins, my 'homeless' guy was in the middle of changing shift with another dude. "Hurry up" said the new recruit, wanting to finish the changeover before anyone would notice. Too late.

At that point, I remembered something Trevor, my fiance would always remark -- "Look at their shoes". If someone was truly homeless or down on their luck, their footwear would be scuffed and worn. However, like the two guys outside Brown Thomas car park that afternoon, those shod in Nike's newest and finest are pure pros.

Suffice to say, I put my money back in my pocket. And equally interestingly, I've seen that same guy since -- but he's never either looked up at me, or asked me for money again.