Kicking them when they’re down: A distinction must be made between “beggars,” “rough sleepers” and “criminals”
20th April 2016
The Auckland City Mission is urging the public to remember that there is a difference between “rough sleepers,” “beggars” and “criminals.”
A series of articles published in the media over the past week refer to “rough sleepers,” “beggars,” “rough people” and “criminals” interchangeably, when in fact these are often entirely separate groups.
The Mission’s acting Chief Executive, Jacki Richardson, says that while some of the people begging on Auckland’s streets are homeless or rough sleeping, many are not.
“A significant proportion of the people who are seen begging are not homeless or rough sleeping,” says Ms Richardson. “It’s important not to push blame for intimidating or antisocial behaviour onto an already highly vulnerable group of people.”
The Mission’s most recent rough sleeper count identified 147 people sleeping rough in the Auckland CBD (an area defined as lying within a three-kilometre radius of the Sky Tower). While some rough sleepers do choose to engage in begging, the Mission does not encourage this behaviour and many rough sleepers do not beg.
“Begging and opportunistic crime are entirely separate issues from rough sleeping,” says Ms Richardson. “The sad reality is that life for rough sleepers is already incredibly difficult and the last thing these people need is to be wrongly accused of antisocial activity simply because they live their lives in public spaces.”
Richardson urges anyone who feels threatened by someone – whether they are a rough sleeper or not – to contact the police.
“In order to help Auckland’s most vulnerable residents move forward with their lives in a positive way, it’s vital that we, as a community, do not condemn them based on the actions of a few – often unrelated – individuals.”