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Second class citizens. Beggars belief

Written By: - Date published: 9:49 am, April 29th, 2014 - 58 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, class war, Metiria Turei, poverty, uncategorized, unemployment - Tags:

Out of sight-out of mind seems to be the logic of Auckland City’s bylaw to come into effect next month, to outlaw begging on the streets. The clear message from Native Affairs report, ‘Walk on By‘, last night, is that the bylaw is the result of pressure from the comfortable middle classes.  The supporters of the bylaw are motivated by their own beliefs or myths about begging, and claim they need to be “protected” from harassment by, (allegedly) dangerous and threatening beggars.

begging

As reported on Native Affairs the bylaw states:

A person must not use a public place to beg, or ask for money, food, or other items for personal use. Or solicit donations in a matter [sic] that may intimidate or cause a nuisance to any person.

It is punishable by a $500 fine.

There are no statistics or hard data that support the need for the bylaw: just anecdotal evidence from those who don’t like having beggars on the streets. As the Native Affairs journalist stated,

It’s rare to be accosted let alone pressured by them.

That’s my experience. In West Auckland I have on occasions been asked for money, but never harassed, threatened or intimidated. The people begging have always been polite and pleasant in manner.

Auckland Council spokesman, Callum Penrose from the Auckland Council Regulatory and Bylaws Committee could only cite complaints from members of the public as evidence. And he clearly saw the issue from the perspective of those who complained. He had no empathy for, or concern about, the people begging, and was struggling to support the reasons for the bylaw with any significant evidence.

When asked what is being done to help people in poverty who are begging, he claimed the help was available from the police and through the court system and community groups. He also tended to dismiss the idea that people were unable to find work. He said businesses claimed they were unable to find people for some jobs, so people needed to look at the bigger picture. Indeed!

The spokesperson from Auckland Action Against Poverty, Alistair Russell, said the bylaw was an over-reaction.

It’s a lack of choice that drives people to begging. To single out a subset of society and to say that they don’t have the right to be on the streets, is an indication of a society that is, ah, that is in itself sick. Those people who are in a situation where they are begging are simply a very small minority of a large number of people in poverty.

AAAP protest

One guy on the street was asked, “Why do you beg?

Ah to get food. Just a little. Yeah. Food clothing. Cos I can’t get me a job, eh bro?

The journalist reported that Green co-leader, Metiria Turei had said that,

Police already have the powers to deal with beggars who intimidate or are aggressive.

Turei stated that:

But to have a by law to move people off the street just because it’s unsavoury for some businesses. It’s not good enough. We are a first world modern and compassionate country. We don’t treat our citizens like that. We shouldn’t.

Alistair Russell, Turei and the Native Affairs’ journalist were talking from a totally different perspective from Penrose (the Council spokesperson). They talked about the people begging and people in poverty in a way that affirmed them as citizen: first class citizens with equal rights and as legitimate needs and desires as those who wanted beggars off the streets. Those presenting arguments in favour of the anti-begging bylaw, clearly talked about people who beg as though they are second class citizens.

The journalist concluded that,

People who beg are often among society’s most vulnerable. Trapped in poverty addiction and deprivation.

Penrose claimed that there needs to be a culture change.  I agree. But his idea of culture change refers the idea of some that it is the beggars who need to change their “culture”.   It is the (too wide spread) culture of poverty denial and blaming those in poverty for their circumstances that needs to change.  Pushing beggars off the streets will not help bring about such a culture change.  It is a return to 19th century Victorian values.

beggar-dog

[Update] The bylaw only says it’s an offence where begging causes a nuisance]

Beginning on page 6, it says:

Nuisances, safety and behaviour in any public place

(1) A person must not use a public place to:

[…]

(f) beg, in a manner that may intimidate or cause a nuisance to any person;

Unfortunately, though, it is open to interpretation as to what sort of behaviour causes a nuisance or intimidates another person.

58 comments on “Second class citizens. Beggars belief”

  1. Bill 1

    What happens when you can’t pay the $500 fine?

    If that can lead to jail time, then we are looking at the first stages of a regime intended to make money from the poor by jailing them in (necessary from the perspective of that right wing ideology) profit generating private prisons.

  2. Tautoko Viper 2

    “On The Turning Away” Pink Floyd

    On the turning away
    From the pale and downtrodden
    And the words they say
    Which we won’t understand
    “Don’t accept that what’s happening
    Is just a case of others’ suffering
    Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
    The turning away

    • blue leopard 2.1

      That was the very first song that came to mind for me too, Tautoko Viper,
      I was going to post the lyrics and see you already have! Good one!

      I shall continue along your line with the final verse:

      No more turning away
      From the weak and the weary
      No more turning away
      From the coldness inside
      Just a world that we all must share
      It’s not enough just to stand and stare
      Is it only a dream that there’ll be
      No more turning away?

    • Macro 2.3

      I’ve been wondering which rock star represented our economy. Now I know.

  3. just saying 3

    It’s a sin that somehow
    Light is changing to shadow
    And casting it’s shroud
    Over all we have known
    Unaware how the ranks have grown
    Driven on by a heart of stone
    We could find that we’re all alone
    In the dream of the proud

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojf18wT_Xtk

  4. TeWhareWhero 4

    If it does result in more people going to prison it makes perfect sense – if you are a neo-liberal:

    tax citizens heavily which makes them very aggrieved;
    use a compliant media to help you direct that anger towards the poor by labelling them as feral/feckless/anti-social/dysfunctional etc;
    increase the numbers of poor people going to prison and justify that by further appeals to their feral/feckless/anti-social/dysfunctional natures;
    allow corporations to build and run prisons to house these feral/feckless/anti-social/dysfunctional non-persons;
    use social capital to pay the corporations to house and control the increasing numbers of prisoners (a grossly disproportionate number of whom are young, male and have brown skins);
    allow other corporations to use prison labour at a couple of dollars an hour – thereby using social capital to pay the for workers’ subsistence which allows the corporations to extract an unnatural level of profit.

    What’s not to like about that scenario if you are a soulless money grubbing bastard?

  5. vto 5

    a $500 fine – ha ha ha ha that is very funny….

    … and is indicative of how removed from reality these rule-makers are.

  6. vto 6

    And we look down our noses when the Chinese forcibly remove their poor citizens for the Olympics..

    If you ever wanted evidence that people the world over are all exactly the same it is this. Everyone’s shit stinks the same.

  7. The Real Matthew 7

    So the middle class are “comfortable” are they? I’ve been reading left wing blog sites who have been telling us for the past 5 years that the middle class are being squeezed by current government policy.

    Back to the beggar by-law I think it’s ridiculous. I haven’t met a beggar yet whose been intimidating. Even if there was legitimate reason for this law (which there isn’t) surely we already have enough laws covering violence and abuse that could be used to deal with the (non-existant) problem.

    Rather than using the convenient excuse of “Middle New Zealand” the writer needs to start firing shots at Len Brown and the left wing Auckland Council for the absurd piece of legislation.

    • karol 7.1

      “Comfortable” middle classes was meant as a subset of the middle classes, not all middle class people. The middle class people most likely to feel the heat of the squeeze, and to feel most insecure, are the lower middle classes.

      Feeling the squeeze, doesn’t mean they are under as much pressure as those on the lowest incomes. Often the most insecure members of the middle classes are ones that put the boot into those in poverty – part of the fear of becoming poor.

      I think the right wingers in the council will be as likely to have supported this bylaw as any left wingers.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1

        Matthew has a point.

        A left-wing council would have a by-law along these lines:

        Poverty and hate speech are forms of violence. Accordingly, membership of the National Party will be punishable by a $500 fine.

        • left for dead 7.1.1.1

          Poverty and hate speech are forms of violence. Accordingly, membership of the National Party will be punishable by a $500 fine.
          OAB….$5,000.00 don’t you think.

      • Tiger Mountain 7.1.2

        “last place aversion” as it is sometimes described explains why the working poor and lower middle classes put the slipper into beneficiaries, and beggars, I have heard these comments made and usually challenge them.

        Oh the irony if the claim about “public complaints” re Auckland beggars is true. Working for Families–in work tax credit looks a hell of a lot like holding your hand out to me. Taxpayer money going to shore up employed people that should be organising and joining unions to obtain their own wage increases from employers. Even dependent contractors and all the others subject to employment rorts can get organised.

        I too do not feel threatened by beggars, the torys and their supporters are much more dangerous.

  8. Phil 8

    just anecdotal evidence from those who don’t like having beggars on the streets. As the Native Affairs journalist stated,

    It’s rare to be accosted let alone pressured by them.

    That’s my experience. In West Auckland I have on occasions been asked for money, but never harassed, threatened or intimidated.

    My initial reaction is that this is also my experience in Wellington… but my experience is as a 6’0” guy who is reasonably fit, extroverted, and walks down the street quickly.

    If I was old or frail or not comfortable in situations of conflict (in the broadest sense of the word) then I suspect that some of the interactions I’ve had with the homeless could be considered very frightening.

    • karol 8.1

      I’m a short woman in my mid 60s, with a minor physical disability that would make it hard for me to defend myself against an attack by most able bodied males, and a large number of young able bodied females. I do not feel physically threatened or intimidated by people begging in Auckland.

      • phillip ure 8.1.1

        i have never ever seen aggression/intimidation from anyone forced to beg…

        ..in auckland..

        ..this is a total small-minded/small-business beat-up…

        ..and so so cruel..to boot..

        • shorts 8.1.1.1

          I’ve not had any bad experiences from beggars either (not here in nz or anywhere I’ve travelled) my boss has on occasion, we’re based off K road in auckland, so there are a number of homeless and other interesting souls – in her case its been a couple of isolated incidences (over many years) and stupidity on the persons behalf as my boss is generous to them not in such a good place

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    He said businesses claimed they were unable to find people for some jobs, so people needed to look at the bigger picture.

    There’s been a job advertised on Seek several times over the last few weeks. I’ve applied for it twice and haven’t been contacted once. It seems to me that many NZ businesses have far too tight a definition of who they want to employ. In other words, the ‘shortage’ is caused by the businesses and not the unemployed.

    It is a return to 19th century Victorian values.

    And if we keep on the neo-liberal path we’ll end up all the way back to feudalism.

    • MaxFletcher 9.1

      Or it could be they don’t consider you qualified?

      • Molly 9.1.1

        … or they are inefficient themselves…

        In this time of digital technology, it takes very little time and skill to post off a generic “Thank you for your application – unfortunately…”

        Some businesses show the level of their competence right from the word go – or SEEK.

      • Draco T Bastard 9.1.2

        Oh, I’m qualified. Got the full range of experience that they’re asking for in the ad and then some. As I said, they appear to have a too tight a definition of what they want causing them to bypass suitable people causing a shortage that’s not actually there.

  10. that is a great bit of journalism..

    ..detailing a new low point for this mayor..who in his first camapaign promised to help the homeless/street-people..

    ..since then he has done nothing for them..

    ..and now this..

    ..and could that council-person..callum.. be more odious/uncaring..?

    ..could he be more of a neo-lib toad..?

    ..and metiria turei was good..

    ..ahe was natural/real..and not that serially-smiling at nothing media persona she usually affects..

    ..she is much more effective when she is being herself..

    ..as she is in this piece..

    ..this is a fucken disgusting piece of local body law..

    ..and a nadir in our treatment of the most vulnerable..

    ..and thanks to native affairs..for highlighting this..

  11. joe90 11

    The supporters of the bylaw are motivated by their own beliefs or myths about begging, and claim they need to be “protected” from harassment by, (allegedly) dangerous and threatening beggars.

    6 – derives from individual or social frustration.

    That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fa**ism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old “proletarians” are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.

    http://www.themodernword.com/eco/eco_blackshirt.html

  12. David 12

    Dumb bylaw. If you want beggars of the street in the short term you need to get them food/clothing/shelter/treatment and set them up with training for employment. Anything else is just “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” stuff (or in this case “stick at the bottom of the cliff”). A long term solution for government and councils is actually implementing a full-employment program.

  13. In theory, we have a social welfare system to ensure no-one has to beg on the streets. In practice, we have beggars on the streets. So, is there something up with the social welfare system, or something up with the homeless? Most likely, both – certainly we seem to be have developed a large number of people lacking even the slightest sense of self-respect – but this doesn’t seem like a useful approach to addressing either question.

  14. ejabtree 14

    In the video it says Onehunga Business Assc. Made a submission with no evidence saying there were intimidating beggar incidents every few days. The “every few days” part is just a plain lie. Then the guy from Auckland Council says go to suburban strip malls and find out how safe people feel. I’ve walked Onehunga mall area many times, daily, and people do feel safe. Outside Onehunga countdown you often get buskers and occasional beggars, and everyone coming and leaving the supermarket knows the deal. Some of those simply asking for funds are familiar and they can get a little boisterous if they’ve been drinking, but intimidating? No. Just last week there was a guy sitting outside Onehunga WINZ office and he asked two people walking past. They both declined and he said “Have a nice day,” in reply. Another was commenting to a friend that a woman had just bought him breakfast. She must have been terrified. One of the defining features of Onehunga is it’s inclusive street community. That casual community is pressured by the gentry that the surrounding areas has attracted. Like any other town there are places you wouldn’t wander around in with dollar bills pinned to your shirt, but what’s new?

    Out west, Pioneer place, and outside Kmart, sometimes even on the township main street, you’ll run into a couple of familiar faces keeping on keeping on. Polite, casual, not at all intimidating. Once again, certain places you don’t want to be hanging around after dark, or drunk, but same as anywhere. In Auckland town down area, by the ferry building, around Albert street, Queen street near immigration offices – especially unassuming there – K Road near St. Kevins arcade and nearer to the graveyard, are all places you’ll find people on the street. Around St. Kevin’s is an example of how two different areas of Auckland CBD, close up against each other, deal with people differently. People can get a little pushy/shouty around Symonds St/Grafton area, but you’d have to be returning the verbal stuff for it to get “intimidating”. It could even be put down to the chance events of real life. What do these intimidated people want – an air conditioned natural environment that approximates an office cubicle or BMW interior 24/7, no surprises, nothing off schedule?? Intimidation is subjective. Nice white folks are easily intimidated. Real life, where the basics are sometimes a challenge to acquire, often results in exasperation that nice folks find “intimidating”.

    I wish it was plain fear of being poor that makes certain types hate the poor close to them. Unfortunately, it’s something else. Our dominant (post?) colonial culture (still) encourages leverage off anything less powerful: children, immigrants, tenants, beneficiaries, beggars, the long-term sick, the disabled, anyone “lesser” in social status will do. It’s a snapshot of the sickness in society that’s been with us since the first pakeha turned up trying to escape the same thing in the country they left. The bigger picture? Privatised welfare. Nineteenth century workhouse attitudes, without the work houses, government pays privates to profit off the poor. It’s all part of the dream most of us live in. Reject the system and the dream, as much as you can, and these laws will have little to stick to.

    • greywarbler 14.1

      I try to have some money for buskers. They are singing the dreams and thoughts of the intelligent, sensitive humans we purport to be. They bring their talents and sing and play and add richness to our routine lives a little from their store of creative skill which is their richness. Probably they don’t have lots of money so it’s a good exchange. And they can touch your soul if you still have one.

  15. Johnm 15

    As reported on Native Affairs the bylaw states:
    A person must not use a public place to beg, or ask for money, food, or other items for personal use. Or solicit donations in a matter [sic] that may intimidate or cause a nuisance to any person.

    Either Native Affairs or the bylaw has this wrong: “matter” should read manner!

    We continue to copy the scum bag hell hole for the poor the U$. Over there it’s illegal to feed people on the street as in a soup kitchen. NeoLiberalism long ago destroyed any decent christian principles replaced by the worship of money and wealth, the same has happened here headed by our heartless, soulless money zombie Key.

    I’ve found beggars I’ve met to be just ordinary people.

    Compare and contrast the fawning sychophancy we paid for given to the pampered poodles of pom royalty! Sickening!

    • karol 15.1

      I’m sure the “matter” was a mis-speak by the Native Affairs reporter – is why I put “[sic]. It was a quote from her that I listened to twice just to check. I’m sure she meant “manner”.

      • Johnm 15.1.1

        Hi karol
        I listened to the video she said manner not matter. That’s ok just a typo. :-)

    • dv 15.2

      ‘As reported on Native Affairs the bylaw states:
      A person must not use a public place to beg, or ask for money, food, or other items for personal use. Or solicit donations in a matter [sic] that may intimidate or cause a nuisance to any person.

      Then how do I deal with my teen age children then in the street?

      • greywarbler 15.2.1

        Good point dv And don’t tell the sparrows, they’re always on the street looking for food. In Kaikoura they warn you against waving food around when sitting outside or a seagull might swoop and take it off your hands. But these peasants are revolting. Nobody should do anything for anybody, then there is no need for shame or guilt or concern – Just a shrug and a ‘Well that’s how it is. I didn’t write the law.’

  16. Colonial Viper 16

    So, did Len Brown vote for this shiny new by-law?

    It seem so hard for the power elite and their well paid professional lackeys to face up to the kind of unequal society they are creating.

  17. One Anonymous Bloke 17

    Of course it’s intimidating to see people begging. The subliminal message is “that could be me” – insufficient employment is cited by about 30% of US participants in one survey, and while it is certainly not the only reason, it’s quite clear that few are truly insulated from the possibility of homelessness and crushing poverty.

    And that’s before we get to the consequences of flooding under a National government that thinks the market will provide.

    People don’t like to be reminded that their lives are fragile and precarious. Far easier to vilify, dehumanise, treat people as sub-citizens, then move them on. And SERCO is waiting.

    Then again we could always elect a competent government instead, and then SERCO can be served with an eviction notice.

  18. Mary 18

    If the bylaw does say exactly how it is quoted above then this is a worry because it purports to outlaw begging regardless of whether it’s a “nuisance”: “A person must not use a public place to beg, or ask for money, food, or other items for personal use. Or solicit donations in a matter [sic] that may intimidate or cause a nuisance to any person.” The first sentence says no begging full stop.

    But the bylaw doesn’t say that. It’s worded in a way that requires there to also be a “nuisance” so your average beggar sitting on the edge of the pavement with a bowl and a sign should be fine. I think if the bylaw were worded as quoted above there’d be a strong argument to have it declared bad in terms of the NZBORA. You just couldn’t justify banning someone sitting quietly with a bowl and sign.

    However, problems will start when shopkeepers and others try to say that a person sitting on the pavement outside their shop is a “nuisance”. The bylaw needed to be aimed at some kind of real problem in order to at least have some chance of withstanding a NZBORA challenge, but the intention will be to try to use it along the lines of what’s written above, that all begging is banned. Arguments will be about whether someone sitting with a bowl and a sign can be a “nuisance”. The civil liberties lawyers need to get ready to nip in the bud the inevitable abuse of the bylaw that will no doubt start happening pretty quickly.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 18.1

      The civil liberties lawyers Police need to get ready to nip in the bud the inevitable abuse of the bylaw that will no doubt start happening pretty quickly.

      FIFY :)

      • Mary 18.1.1

        Thanks. I thought there was something missing. Couldn’t quite work out what.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 18.1.1.1

          I hope I’m not being hopelessly naive, and I expect those civil liberties lawyers you mentioned (and the court) will be watching with interest if the police don’t step up.

          • Mary 18.1.1.1.1

            Yes, it will be up to the cops to know what the bylaw actually says and that they can’t just act on the direction of some self-declared defender of the rights of the respectable who decides they feel intimidated by the sight of a bowl and a sign. The test must surely be an objective one and not merely based on the belief of those who say they’re “intimidated”. I’m sure the council, though, are counting on a misapplication of the bylaw to clean up their town. That’s what the wording of it looks like to me.

    • karol 18.2

      Thanks, Mary. You are correct. It says, begging page 6:

      Nuisances, safety and behaviour in any public place

      (1) A person must not use a public place to:

      (a) wilfully obstruct, disturb or interfere with any other person in their use or enjoyment of that public place;

      (b) or create a nuisance through the use or playing of any instrument (musical or otherwise), any type of public address system or any type of amplified sound system, or from making any excessive sound or noise;

      (c) use any material or thing (including a vehicle, bicycle, motorised scooter, model aircraft, skateboard, roller skates or roller blades, shopping trolley or similar object) recklessly or in a manner which may intimidate, be dangerous, be injurious to or cause a nuisance to any person;

      (d) install or maintain a fence (including a razor-wire and electric fence) in a manner that may cause an injury or nuisance to any person;

      (e) consume, inject or inhale or distribute or offer for sale any mind-altering substance;

      (f) beg, in a manner that may intimidate or cause a nuisance to any person;

      (g) wash or offer to wash a vehicle or any part thereof, in a manner that may be unsafe or intimidate or cause a nuisance to any person, or cause an obstruction to traffic.

      Will add to the post.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 18.2.1

        A person must not use a public place to:

        (a) wilfully obstruct, disturb or interfere with any other person in their use or enjoyment of that public place;

        Well that’s all billboards and advertising gone by lunchtime.

        Who could disagree with that?

        Seriously, are you Jaffas all just going to lie down for this shit?

        • karol 18.2.1.1

          Actually, I was also thinking that part of the bylaw could be applied to people using a public space for begging – they should not be obstructed, disturbed or interfered with.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 18.2.1.1.1

            Oh I like that :)

            They should be defended, because if the Left doesn’t exist to protect the weak from the strong what good are we?

            Solidarity.

  19. captain hook 19

    so tell me nows so I can understand. how does a pennyless beggar pay a fine?

  20. greywarbler 20

    This video below is the result of some aggressive citizen deciding that public space should be limited to only certain members of the public. And then harrassing and blocking the way of an innocent citizen. This man will bend the truth in attempting to win support and agreement from others in his denial of rights to the other. The high handed arrogance of it is breathtaking.

    And the anti-begging by law. Forbidding people to ask for anything on the street is wrong. There must be some control that can be resorted to in extreme circumstances, but it should be rare and limited action. A mediated approach should be the preference.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEKhgBye5K0
    (Youtube Not a pleasant ride home.)

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