Sadly, there are some beggars on the streets of Palmerston North. They hang out on one particular shopping street, and according to the retailers there, they are driving away trade, and as a result, some retailers will go to the wall. Of course, the huge expansion of the town’s largest, and virtually only, revolting indoor mega-mall has nothing to do with the foot traffic disappearing from the other shopping streets in town. No, let’s blame the beggars as quick as we can.
The street retailers have a couple of suggestions. The beggars should be moved on, and the public should be educated to stop giving them money. And the Mayor has leapt onto the bandwagon.
Mayor Jono Naylor said the issue had to be seen in the context of just nine individuals making life uncomfortable for a community of 80,000.
“There is no doubt something needs to be done, but I don’t think a bylaw is the answer.”
He said his previous experience as a busker had taught him one thing.
“We never stood anywhere where there was no money coming in.
“Some people feel they want to give money to individuals, and frankly, although it might be heart-warming at the time, it is not that useful.”
How about that compassion then?
Yes, it is unpleasant being hassled by beggars, but really, it’s no more unpleasant than running the gauntlet of raffle-ticket sellers outside the supermarket on Saturday mornings. It’s just that one group is socially sanctioned, and the other is not.
If the retailers and the mayor want to find a solution to the problem of shoppers finding beggars unpleasant, perhaps they might like to fund an education campaign to help shoppers understand that most beggars are harmless. The Mayor might even like to find a little money in the city budget for the social agencies that work with people who are down and out. But of course, that would take a lot more work and effort than a bit of sweeping and moving along.