Napier beggars say they're treated like animals

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

An increase in beggars in the Napier CBD has got shop owners scared saying they are intimidated by their anti-social behaviour. But the beggars say they are being treated like animals.

Homeless man Major Keelan told Te Kāea, "We've got nothing here for us and all we ask the government to do is help us, we're asking for help and what are they doing they're sweeping us under the carpet like we're animals. Well guess what? We ain't animals, we're humans just like you."

They come to the Napier CBD with their handwritten signs asking for donations, but the shop owners aren't happy.

The ones Te Kaea spoke to preferred not to be named as they feel intimidated, but say they have been assaulted and threatened - behaviour which has resulted in police arrests.

"In situations like these, where people are on the street and asking for money, police work closely with the council and the relevant social agencies whose role it is to provide assistance and support seeking to address the issues that motivate people to beg."

"This is a social issue that we as a community should own and need to reduce together. Policing requirements are an indication that we have not yet found the appropriate solution and need to work harder," says Inspector Matt Broderick Acting Area Commander Hawke's Bay

At just 21-years-old Dominic McLaren is the youngest of the rough sleepers Te Kāea met, his friends calling him the baby of the streets.

McLaren says on average he would make $50 a day from begging, "That would be my average but at the moment now we just been making for the three of us probably a whole day only $10."

It's a situation that has not gone unnoticed by the Napier City Council, which they say has been increasing since the end of last year. 

"We have been working with the police and the community around trying to provide support and also send the message it's better to help the agencies that can help these people," says Natasha Carswell
Manager Community Strategies Napier City Council.

"What we've got at the moment is a by law that is not specific to begging so it has its difficulties in terms of enforcing but we're looking at a longer term solution just moving people on doesn't achieve a lot."

There is a group of around 20 rough sleepers that the council is aware of, however, the group Te Kāea spoke to say, it's just a few of them behaving badly that are giving the rest of them a bad name.