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Begging – A Complex Issue

ThinkPlace recently collaborated with Wellington City Council and other stakeholders to gain new insight into the issue of begging in order to inspire new thinking about the topic.  While there are many theories as to why people think begging is on the increase in Wellington, it is not clear why people beg in the first place.

Begging is an issue that involves multiple interactions and therefore multiple stakeholders. So we spoke with people who beg, citizens, visitors, retailers, social services, security agencies, etc., in order to understand the different viewpoints.

The conclusion from the report states:

  • “This document has reinforced that there are many stakeholders across Wellington who are concerned about begging.  Concerns include feelings of a general reduced sense of safety; negative image issues for our city; questions about whether is intertwined with criminal activity; and confusion about why people in our society need to beg when we have a social welfare system.  The comments reflect a mix of compassion and annoyance.”
  • “For those who beg, we have demonstrated that their circumstances are complex and intertwined with other issues of vulnerability such as, lack of suitable housing options; chronic unemployment; lack of positive and purposeful activity; drug, alcohol and cigarette addictions; mental health issues; and criminal convictions.  The people we spoke to all came from difficult or abusive childhoods and were usually disconnected from their whanau.”
  • “We have discovered that begging is currently an effective transaction – there are people asking and people giving.  But we have also pointed out that focusing efforts to stop the transaction alone will not address the underlying issues that led to begging in the first place.  Stopping the transaction may simply mean a re-direction of need for disposable income into more harmful activities.  Sustainable change can only be maximised if the complexity of begging is addressed at multiple levels.”
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