Homeless/Begging Beat-Up

I’ve not written anything for a while, mainly because of my move to Christchurch changing my focus on various things; particularly getting back into my old passion – photography, check my Instagram.

Anyway, over recent weeks I’ve noticed more beat-ups against homeless and people begging on the streets; sure, there’s been beat-ups before, but there’s a new wave of this happening throughout the country and, quite frankly I’ve had enough of it.

As some of you will know I have always been supportive of people who don’t have what others have, those who struggle to find housing and those who struggle to make ends meet. And, before you say “but it’s their choosing” – stop!

Who chooses to be homeless? Sure, there may be a handful of people who prefer not to have a fixed abode, but they are few and far between.

And, to those who say beggars are only doing it to finance their drugs and alcohol – I call bullshit on this; yes, there are some that do that, but again they are few and far between.

Since being in Christchurch, just like when I was in Auckland, I have gotten to know some of the local street people and, what a great bunch they are; actually, I’ve reconnected with a couple of bods I knew from Auckland.

Now, back to the beat-ups, Auckland retailers are tired of them on the street, sure some can be a right royal pain in the butt, but why aren’t retailers just going up to them and asking them nicely to move on rather than being heavy handed and calling security patrols or police? A little polite dialogue can work wonders and earns respect for all concerned.

Now I’ve also read recently about community space design that seem to be done in a way to deter people from loitering, street furniture made in such a way that people can’t lay down; spikes on edges of buildings, sprinklers in doorways; aren’t we a great lot that we would sooner do things to deter than to face people and talk about any issues.

In Christchurch recently while talking with a couple of the street people, we were approached by the boys in blue and asked to move on; actually, more precisely they were asked to move on. They were sitting on seats installed for public use; so in my mind had every right to be there.

These cops told the guys to move or they would be moved on for trespassing. Me being me, I couldn’t bite my tongue and asked if this applied to me as well; no they said, only the street people, well, that made my blood boil. That, as I pointed out to the constabulary was profiling and discrimination, I was asked to shut up, and to mind my own business. Um, it is/was my business.

Eventually the cops relented and moved on. We won.

Just the other week, again I was talking with a chap on the street I have gotten to know, when someone from a security firm came along and told him he had to sit at least one metre from any shop frontage. When I asked if this was council policy or a council bylaw, I was immediately asked for my name, address, and date of birth, yea right, I ain’t giving this to anyone other than the police. This person tried to tell me she had every right to ask and that I was in breach of some law for not providing it. Um, sorry, you’re wrong I said. She then demanded to see some form of proof of identity, I told her no way, that she had no legal right to request that.

She got all huffy and was about to call the police for assistance, I even offered to make the call myself, lucky for her someone else from the company came along and defused the situation.

And, now, just over this last weekend I read a thread on Facebook, where someone was asking what help she could offer to a newly found young woman sleeping rough. While most people offered sound advice, one person chimed in saying that asking for help for a woman was sexist, that homeless men are more at risk on the street than a single woman. Well, again I had to call bullshit on this.

I have seen and spoken with women sleeping rough who have been exploited, used as sexual pawns.

We all need to understand our homeless, we need to get to know them and offer them any help we can. This help could be as simple as getting to know them, offering them help when they need it, steering them to the right agencies. Remember most people are only a few pay cheques away from being in the same boat.

What will you do to help those living rough?

Begging Ban

I was shocked to see on Stuff.co.nz that a building in Christchurch has now put up No Begging signage in a “effort” to move beggars on. The reasoning appears to be that there are a number of “professional” beggars, people who move into the area to solicit money when they don’t really need to be doing it.

What’s happening in our society when we label people without knowing the full story, some of the comments I have read online in regard to this particular article has shocked me; and then when I shared it on Facebook one person suggested that all beggars be exterminated, that they were rejects that society didn’t need. Someone also commented that beggars, homeless should be put into “secure” housing, when asked what was meant by this, the response was – jail, was this best option. Let’s hope these views aren’t shared by others.

OK, yes there are some people begging that can be a tad annoying, but it’s important that not all are tarred with the same brush; every one of them has a story, a reason for being on the street doing what they are doing. We should instead of banishing homeless and beggars, that we should be learning what has put them in the situation they are in and looking for ways to offer them the help they need to get on their feet.

There’s many organisations working to help homeless people throughout the country, and now we the Government ready with $100M to fight homelessness. All we need now is for the rest of us to understand why people are on the streets and offer support where we can.

Do beggars annoy you, do you want to see them banned from the streets?

Charity Boxes to Oust Beggars

After reading “City council acts on rise in ‘opportunist’ begging” I got to thinking that yes, the charity boxes will help some; but it will not help all in need.

 
Having spent time in both Auckland and Wellington talking to people who “beg” I’ve learned that it’s not just a lazy way to get some money – it’s sometimes the only way some of these people can get something to eat, perhaps even a warm pair of socks.
 
Not everyone who is out on the street asking for a handout are doing it to fuel a drug or alcohol addiction, and nor are they all layabouts with nothing to do with their day, or more to the point not willing to do something. 
 
The problem is deeper, and unless we look at the real issues, the reasons why people are on the street asking for spare coin we will never really understand it.
 
Agencies can do their part, they can talk with officialdom to look for solutions, but unless they talk with the people who are asking for coin we’ll never truly understand the “why”.
 
People I’ve spoken to have said they’re not eligible for welfare payments, perhaps this will worsen with more people being declined or having payments cut when drug / alcohol testing comes starts to hit.
 
Sure, welfare payments are for food, housing etc, not for recreational purposes; but that’s another issue.
 
I’m not suggesting that agencies aren’t doing their job, what I’m suggesting, or more to the point wonder is what agencies have been out and spent time talking to people about solutions. Are the charity boxes a real solution?
 
Will all the money in the boxes get to where it’s needed, or will a clip be taken for administering the ‘funds’?
 
One homeless man I’ve recently met has told me he receives a benefit, but sits on the street to collect any other money he can. His reason; the benefit he gets isn’t enough to feed, clothe or house him. 
He collects an average of $60 per week – half he uses to help him from week to week, the other he’s setting aside to help him move into affordable accommodation. He’s actually saving money for his future and to help him improve his lifestyle.
 
Maybe this guy is a rarity, but he has a story, one which I’m wondering have agencies asked him to share.
 
It will be interesting to see if the move to install Charity Boxes will work, I’m doubtful. I’m wondering if instead it will result in more aggressive begging, something the proponents of the boxes are hoping the boxes will end. 
 
I guess only time will tell if this move by the Wellington City Council will have the desired effect.