Tauranga's homeless don't need sympathy and gold coins, says advocate who supports rough-sleeping ban

The Tauranga City Council has voted to ban begging and rough sleeping within five metres of shops as of April next year.

Te Tuinga Whānau Trust representative Tommy Wilson joined TVNZ's Breakfast this morning to discuss why he supports the ban.

Mr Wilson said, "It's time to turn off the tap that's feeding these unfortunate peoples' habits and start turning on the solutions, which is, 'How do we reconnect them?' We don't reconnect them by gold coins, mate. Don't give them a kai – it doesn't give them gas money to get to the tangi or petrol money to get to a job, which is the three best excuses used. What it does is it gets them going around the corner and feeds their habit, and until we get these fellas clean and sober, we can't help them and that's what this is all about".

He said the homeless can "come across the road to [Te Tuinga Whānau Trust]".

"We've been around for 30 years helping the homeless, and start working out how we can get them reconnected as far as getting them clean, getting them into a place where they can get supervised medication.

"Long term, we need more shelters. We've got a great men's shelter, we've got a women's shelter opening up [and] they've got plenty of kai. There's wonderful organisations that feed them, so their puku's been taken care of, it's more, 'How do we take care of their deeper needs?' This is the first start in that process."

Mr Wilson said it has "only been the last two years that begging's come into the picture".

"Some of the streeties have been living on the street for over 20 years and they've got it sussed, you know, but now that certain sectors are worked out, you can pull $200 in the morning, that invites a whole other sector to come in and start doing the same thing, and before you know it, you've got clusters of beggars that are pulling in serious coin, and that affects the people that are just trying to make a living, i.e. the shopkeepers, and that doesn't sound fair to anyone, I don't think.

"Tauranga’s booming. It’s going well, so of course, there's all sorts of other factors to come into it as far as rents go up and bottom falls out, but empathy is the key, ay? Let's get past sympathy and get to empathy where it's directed kindness, and the heart of Tauranga is a really kind heart.

"There's no problem with kindness, it's just too much sympathy, and sympathy isn't what's needed, it's empathy, which is well-directed kindness."

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It will mean beggars and the homeless won’t be allowed within five metres of retail areas. Source: 1 NEWS