Homelessness, begging and vagrancy may be top of the political agenda, but they are not new problems.
At a Whitley Bay Willow Club meeting, speaker Freda Thompson talked about conditions in England at the time of the 1824 Vagrancy Act.
Immigrants from Ireland and Scotland roamed the streets looking for work.
Freda used the story of Tommy On The Bridge. He was born blind and begged for money on the Swing Bridge.
The charismatic character was romanticised in song and verse.
In reality his life was a continuous battle for survival, learning to distinguish buttons from pennies thrown into his tray
The Willow Club meets each Thursday, between 10.30am and noon, in the Wesley Hall, St John’s Church, Ilfracombe Gardens, Whitley Bay, to listen to an invited speaker.
The club is open to all retired men.