“A lot of the time those who are housed are poorer than those who aren’t because they have more overheads – rent, power, food – and often they are bored and lonely. It’s social interaction, something for them to do, something to get up for.”
To address this issue of loneliness and social isolation, DCM last year started a community connections service in several Wellington suburbs to support people in building relationships within their own neighbourhoods.
Rough sleeper and street beggar figures in decline
Natalia says the number of people street begging has reduced, alongside rough sleeping figures, over the past few years. Street beggars are not included in the monthly rough sleeping audit – that’s a separate audit carried out by Wellington City Council.
She says DCM can help street beggars find appropriate support and alternative opportunities, however many choose to continue to beg because of the donations they receive.
“This is not mana enhancing for them. They have more value than sitting on the street. If we keep feeding and giving money to them then we are reenforcing their decision to keep doing it – it’s a very short-term solution.”
“We’ve got the food, tea and coffee, and access to Work and Income and health services at DCM, so we want them to come and see us.”
DCM is located along Lukes Lane, meaning taumai are just a minute’s walk from Wellington City Council’s new community support space in Manners Street, Te Wāhi Āwhina, which was launched as part of the Pōneke Promise.
After a stroll along Manners Street and a chat to long-time rough sleeper Timmy on Cuba Street, the team make their way through Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and then down Tory Street.
Here they meet Carl, almost 65, neatly dressed and laughing. He’s outside the Home of Compassion soup kitchen, about to head inside for breakfast.
Carl eyes the team approaching the soup kitchen.
“Natalia, you’ve fallen on hard times,” he jokes.
He tells her he was one the people in slumber in the lagoon area, where he has been sleeping for about five years now.
“The other three [rough sleepers] turned up, and I thought ‘there goes the neighbourhood’. I told the other guys to keep it clean.”
As well as respecting his environment, Carl take pride in his appearance. He doesn’t receive any government benefits, and has been declining offers of help into housing for years. However, as he’s gotten older, he’s started to come around to the idea of moving inside and sleeping in a bed, Natalia says.
“We’ve got to get this idea out of our heads that people don’t want to be housed. For us at DCM, when people say they don’t want housing, we see that as them saying ’not yet‘ rather than ’never’. So we’ll persevere in building our relationship with them with the expectation that they will start to see the idea of a permanent home as something they want.”
Carl is one of the five rough sleepers counted this particular morning. Rewind two years, and this figure would more likely have been in the mid-teens. April 2021 saw three rough sleepers, while April 2019 saw 16.
Paulo says this reduction in numbers is likely down to the collaborative cross agency approach to addressing homelessness in Wellington which involves NGO’s, government organisations and Council.
He says Council’s Community Services Team and partner agencies are taking a holistic and collaborative approach, guided by the Council’s Te Mahana Homelessness Strategy, which weaves international best practice with culturally-specific steps.
“We will continue to work together with our partners and our community to support those who are vulnerable and to ensure they have access to services.”
Find out what the Council is doing about homelessness and begging in Wellington city.