A sensible solution to Wellington street begging

Overpaid CEO
Overpaid CEO

by Don Franks

Wellington just got more diverse – central city retailers speaking to The Dominion Post report an increase in begging.

Homeless in Wellington
Homeless in Wellington

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.

Some retailers claimed groups of younger beggars were using aggressive tactics, including singling out older women as soft targets and waving signs in people’s faces.

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.

7 comments

  1. What this appears to mean is that any money donated in the street boxes or phone apps won’t actually go to those sleeping rough but instead to ‘approved agencies’ who may do a good job but it won’t actually reach those who are desperate.

  2. That’s right.

    The process serves to further dehumanize the homeless.

    Don’t interact with them. They are irresponsible people, not to be trusted with money, therefore, hardly even recognisably people.

    Instead, give your spare dollar to a sensible government agency, a body who will invest your pennies for the poor more wisely than the poor could possibly do themselves.

    This city council grandstanding is about cleaning up the streets, while helping the ‘deserving poor’, a category of bourgeoise hypocrisy well understood by George Bernard Shaw.

  3. Hi Werner. I didn’t post that photo but you might have a point. There are a few seats like that in Wellington, but not a lot.
    In the last few years our city council has practiced what is known as ‘disciplinary architecture’.
    That is, seating designed to discourage homeless folk from using it.
    For example, in Manners mall, when it was a mall , the metal seats were made like large bicycle saddles. Ugly looking and individual, very capitalistic. The point being, you could not stretch out and sleep on them, never mind how weary you were.
    So the authorities latest idea of tight arsed goody two shoes charity boxes instead of a spontaneous buck for a beggar is consistent extension of council policy.

  4. Bullshit! Those living on the street are entitled to decent shelter and a living wage, not tokenistic liberal handouts. Those with addictions need to be treated. Seriously, 10 to 20 people living in the streets is an issued that can be addressed with a days serious attention.

  5. ” Seriously, 10 to 20 people living in the streets is an issue that can be addressed with a days serious attention.”

    That sentence has been rolling around in my head for the last few days. Practical basic humanity.

    It could stand up well as the prerequisite for a genuinely civilized society.

    That will not come to pass in my lifetime because we will not get rid of the impeding profit factor before I go.

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