Your Help may Harm

Working together to address begging in Hamilton – a Q&A about Your help may harm

There are many reasons why people beg. Often, people have reached this point as the result of a complex range of factors. In some cases, people may be begging for money to support an addiction.

Seeing someone begging can be confronting, evoking a range of emotions from frustration to sadness. It is only natural to want to help – but often people don't know what to do.

In response, Hamilton City Council's City Safe is working with businesses and social support agencies to educate the community about what can be done to help people who are begging in Hamilton.

This education campaign is called: Your help may harm.

​How can I help people who are begging?

  • You can help by not giving money to people who are begging. Instead, help us help them, by calling City Safe on 0800 7233 2489.

Why shouldn't I give money to people who are begging?

  • Giving money keeps people trapped in a cycle of begging; if people get money from begging they will continue to beg instead of seeking out support and help in other more sustainable forms.
  • There is research from Australia and the UK of small begging populations similar in numbers to what we have in Hamilton that shows begging is often associated with supporting an addiction.

So what should I do?

If you see someone begging you can call City Safe on 0800 7233 2489.

Don't tell me who I should give money to!

We want to be very clear - this is not an alternative giving campaign – we are not asking people to give money to charities instead of giving money to people who are begging. It is not our place to ask people to give their money to any organisation. This is an education campaign about how you can help us help people who are begging.

But, if you want to find out more about other agencies that can help, you can visit: 

  • www.hamilton.govt.nz – a Clubs and Organisations directory that promotes local non-profit community groups and organisations
  • Or talk to the Citizen's Advice Bureau 0800 367 222, who have extensive knowledge of local community agencies.

Isn't this pretty heartless – are we punishing people for begging?  It's not illegal, is it?

It is also about making sure everyone in the community can go freely about their business without having to worry about the safety of themselves or people who are begging.

Certain types of begging, such as aggressive begging, are illegal in Hamilton, and are outlined in the Council's Safety in Public Places bylaw. This bylaw outlines that it is an offence when begging in a public place is done in a manner that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any reasonable person, or causes an unreasonable interference with the peace, comfort and convenience of any person.  A bylaw is a law that is enforced by Local Government, rather than police.

It's about ensuring people who are vulnerable get the help they need.

​ 

What happens when I call City Safe about someone who is begging?

When City Safe get a call about someone begging, their trained staff will go out to the person to find out what their situation is and then direct them to the right supports – that could be The People's Project or the Night Shelter (if they are homeless or have accommodation issues), it could be a health service or it could be a foodbank – it depends on each person's situation.


How many people are begging in Hamilton?

Around 10 to 12 people who are mostly known to City Safe, businesses, police and other agencies. From time to time people come here from other regions to beg – usually around busy times such as sporting events, Christmas, that sort of thing - when lots of people are out.

The issue we have with begging in Hamilton is small compared to other cities, and absolutely solvable with the community's support.

Why is it called your help may harm?

There's a couple of reasons:

  • Giving money keeps people trapped in a cycle of begging – if people get money from begging they will continue to beg instead of seeking out support and help in other more sustainable forms.
  • We don't know what people are spending the money on that they get from begging. There is research from Australia and the UK, of small begging populations similar in numbers to what we have in Hamilton, that shows begging is often associated with supporting an addiction.


Are there other places in New Zealand or around that world that have used this approach (re please don't give to people who are begging)?  

Over the past year the number of people who are begging has grown in many cities and towns across New Zealand. While there are many complex reasons for this, communities have now realised that without a strategy to address begging, the number of people begging will continue to increase.  In response, we've seen the Christchurch City Mission ask members of the public to not give money to people who are begging. The Auckland City Mission and Downtown City Mission in Wellington have also said publically that they agree with this approach.

In the UK, a number of cities, including Oxford, London, Bath and Leeds, have implemented similar campaigns albeit with differing elements, but all with key messages aimed at educating the community that giving money to people who are begging is not the way to provide any long-term sustainable help. Despite their differences, these campaigns all involved the community's social services working together and providing outreach to people who were begging along with a message to not give money to people begging, in a similar way to what we are doing here in Hamilton through City Safe. 

We believe this approach is the right thing to do, because the right thing to do is to help people get the long-term, sustainable support, service or assistance they need.

People who are begging are often vulnerable, they are likely to be experiencing financial hardship of some kind and sometimes they are begging to support an addiction. However, giving money keeps people trapped in a cycle of begging – if people get money from begging they will continue to beg instead of seeking out support and help in other more sustainable forms.

How are the police involved – what role do they have?

Police work alongside City Safe and other agencies who are working together to provide long-term sustainable support to people who beg. 

City Safe and members of the public will and should involve police if/when there is a situation where a crime is being committed.

Certain types of begging, such as aggressive begging, are illegal in Hamilton, and are outlined in the Council's Safety in Public Places bylaw.  This bylaw outlines that it is an offence when begging in a public place is done in a manner that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any reasonable person, or causes an unreasonable interference with the peace, comfort and convenience of any person.  A bylaw is a law that is enforced by Local Government, rather than police.​

Some myths about people who beg

  • People are hungry:  
    Hamilton has a number of services that offer meals and food parcels to the city's vulnerable people. If people say they are hungry, City Safe will direct them to these agencies for support.

  • People are homeless: 
    Not all people who beg are homeless, and not all people who are homeless beg. Through working closely with the city's social service agencies, we know most of the people who are sleeping rough in Hamilton City. If people say they are homeless, City Safe will direct them to the appropriate agency for support.

  • People don't have any support from Work and Income New Zealand: 
    In our experience it is very rare that someone who is begging is not receiving a benefit. We're not saying people aren't experiencing financial hardship, we know that people who are living on a benefit and who have debt and other financial commitments such as child support payments and fines, may find that they don't have a lot of money to left to live on. Work and Income can help people with additional financial support for financial hardship, if people open themselves up for this support.  The Government has also recently announced a Winter Energy payment as part of the Families Package for people in receipt of a main benefit, which will be an additional $20 - $31 per week. Also, the Government is increasing the Accommodation Supplement, and Hamilton is moving to a higher bracket of support, meaning people will get more financial support to help pay their rent. ​

Page reviewed: 21 Jan 2019 12:21pm