by Don Franks
Wellington just got more diverse – central city retailers speaking to The Dominion Post report an increase in begging.
Figures from the Downtown Community Ministry show that on any fine day, 10 to 20 people are begging in Wellington. Of these, authorities estimate about half are homeless, many are feeding an addiction and a few are simply opportunists.
As a regular Wellington pedestrian I often see beggars, but have not encountered aggressive ones. Most of the poor buggers just look dejected and feeble.
However, whichever way you look at it, help is at hand.
The Dominion Post today reported: “The hounding of pedestrians by beggars for spare change has led to Wellington City Council deciding to install charity boxes around the city.
“The boxes will be rolled out at begging hot spots later this year as part of the city council’s bid to stamp out a rise in ‘opportunist’ begging.
“The boxes provide donors an immediate physical alternative to handing out change.
“The idea is instead of putting two dollars in their hand, you put it in the box.”
If I was a nasty cynical person I might suspect that all the council have in mind is cleaning up their CBD so tourists don’t get offended. A bit like the authorities are said to do in Pyongyang.
Regardless, I have what I consider a much more humane and sensible idea.
Wellington City Council’s recently appointed CEO Kevin Lavery gets paid $420,000.00 each year. Half of that is more than sufficient to keep any yuppie in lattes. Lavery is scarcely worth that anyway; his only contribution to date being a suggestion that the historic town hall be razed.
To take the edge off street begging all the council need do is contact the twenty homeless Wellington folk and divey up half of Lavery’s bloated pay, which would come to $10,500 apiece. Each recipient agrees not to panhandle for the rest of the year.
I bet if my alternative was put to a vote of the homeless I’d get a majority.
In the meantime, those donation boxes and their neighbouring shop windows better be strong enough to withstand the attention of desperate homeless people. The options of homeless unemployed are begging or theft. Close one avenue and the other must surely grow.