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Don’t let your kind donations go up in smoke

Begging hands. Generous Napier residents are being congratulated on their goodwill but urged to put their hard-earned money into legitimate resources for those genuinely struggling to make ends meet.

Street beggars are cashing in on the kindness of strangers, but spending their cache on illegal drugs such as highly addictive synthetic cannabis. Some are also gambling away the approximately $100 they earn each day on the streets.

 “This is certainly not a new problem, but it’s one that we’re aiming to temper with a fresh approach,” says Napier Mayor Bill Dalton. “We’re working closely with a number of professional agencies in Napier to encourage residents to ‘help the helpers’ and make their money truly count. Giving to beggars is, in essence, directly supporting drug use, aggression, and crime in our beautiful city.”

 There are up to 10 known beggars operating in the CBD as part of a begging syndicate, and a handful of others in the Marewa, Onekawa and Taradale shopping precincts. Most of the money earned by beggars is donated by locals – not tourists, as is widely assumed. 

 Natasha Carswell, NCC’s Manager Community Strategies says the cash earned by begging is feeding addiction, and that Council is working closely with the NZ Police, the Ministry of Social Development, Whatever It Takes Trust (WIT), The Salvation Army and Napier City Business Inc to try and assist vulnerable and high risk community members in a connected and cohesive manner. “We have joined forces here in Napier to implement a wide-reaching campaign, starting this week. There will be foot patrols in place over the coming weeks, in conjunction with Police and WIT, to help discourage begging. We’re hoping these patrols will also help manage some of the other issues we’re seeing around Napier – aggressive or antisocial behaviour, threatening language and congregating in groups, particularly around the bus terminal.”

This interconnected approach will be supported with advertising and social media activity.  Alister Irwin from The Salvation Army says part of the campaign will speak to how donated funds to his agency, and others, are spent. “For instance, The Salvation Army Napier Corps provides a range of services aside from the Family Stores for which we’re known! We can assist with everything from hot showers, to food parcels, to emergency accommodation, budgeting education and basic cooking classes.”

Then there is WIT, whose outreach programme aimed at rough sleepers, and those at high risk of rough sleeping, is supported and funded by NCC. Within the 12 months this programme has been offered so far, several rough sleepers have been placed into housing and assisted to find employment, or access income support. There are also several other agencies offering free counselling, addiction support, budgeting advice and job training.

“If the thousands of dollars earned by beggars each and every week here in Napier could instead be channeled into The Salvation Army, WIT and other agencies, how much more great work could be done?” asks Mayor Dalton. 

 Napier City Business Inc Manager Zoe Barnes says she hopes the campaign will bring some welcome relief to retailers who are “exhausted” from regularly dealing with harassment in the CBD. “We’re grateful for the fresh focus on this issue and are very keen to help re-educate our community on the realities of begging. We understand how tempting it is to give a few dollars to people on the street, but there are far better ways to give, for good.”

Advice for members of the public:

  • Give to legitimate agencies only – ‘give for good’ not for harm;
  • Contact the Police if feeling threatened or concerned for safety of yourself or others;
  • Contact WIT on team@witservices.co.nz and 06 835 2154;
  • Contact The Salvation Army on napier_corps@nzf.salvationarmy.org.nz and 06 844 4941;
  • Contact Napier Police on 06 831 0700.

 

3 May 2017

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