Begging – how our Local Hosts are helping

Begging is a complicated issue that is becoming more common in New Zealand.

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We’re working with social agencies to deal with begging in the capital, and our street ambassadors have an important role to play.

Recent audits show that, on an average day, there are about 15 people begging on the capital’s streets. This number is small compared to other main cities, but our goal is to end begging completely.

We believe the first step in helping people in this situation is to build a relationship with them. Our Local Hosts are often the first contact that people who are begging have with the Council.

The reasons people beg are different for each person, says Local Host supervisor Ross Thornton. “The person isn’t the problem, the person has problems, so we engage, build trust, and encourage social agency interactions.”

Our team can then offer advice on what services and support are available.

“One of the many services we can help them with is getting ID. It’s the simplest of things but makes all the difference with getting them housed, applying for work and going through the bureaucratic process.”

In 2016, the Council commissioned a report into begging and asked for public feedback. What we found is that a response like introducing a ban would push desperate people to the margins even further, and could lead to criminal activity.

Instead, we decided to find ways to deal with the underlying causes, such as the lack of cheap housing, disconnected communities, and addiction and mental health problems.
It’s important that all Wellingtonians can enjoy and feel safe in our public spaces.

If you are concerned about someone who is begging, you can phone us on 04 499 4444. If you think the behaviour of someone begging is unlawful, phone Wellington Police on 04 381 2000.

Read more about our approach to begging.