Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Beggars

All the talk about beggars in Auckland, and the new by-law outlawing them if they "are deemed intimidating or causing a nuisance" had me thinking. Who gets to decide if any particular beggar is "intimidating or causing a nuisance" - is it the Council, a council worker, a policeman, or just any one at all who chooses to say "I feel intimidated?" or "That person is a nuisance to me?" But then I started to think more about begging in general.

Then two weeks in a row I saw a man (I say a man, because assuredly he is more than a beggar, just as I cannot be defined by a single aspect of my life) begging near where I was meeting my son for lunch.

My first gut reaction was one of revulsion for a society in which some people feel the need to beg.

My second thought was that at least he was being honest and direct - asking for money. Let's face it, there's a hell of a lot more people out there mugging people, breaking and entering, or stealing via investment scams.

Talking to people about this, it seems like most people feel that begging is somehow worse than shop lifting, handbag snatching or home invasion. What is it that gives people this gut feeling that begging is scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel?

And yes, before you ask, I did give him some money.

2 comments:

Natalie said...

Begging gets a bad rep because unfortunately there are a sizeable number of "professional beggars" who make significant sums of tax-free money by pretending to be homeless.

Unfortunately, the ones who are disruptive are more likely to be those with genuine issues who do need help! So that's where I see the law being an issue... unless they are going to provide some decent resources to help the people they remove from the streets instead of just "moving them along".

Cally said...

Yes, Natalie, I agree - I feel like the Auckland by-law places us alongside the Chinese government who 'cleaned up' their city before the Olympics. The guy I saw was fairly obviously not capable of working and I'm sure many of the Auckland ones are similar. Those who could be capable often need help to fulfill their potential. But the bottom line is, in New Zealand, there just aren't enough jobs to go around and this government doesn't give a shit. It needs, as you say, decent resources to help people.