‘‘Got a dollar for the bus?’’ It appears such begs-bordering-on-demands annoy, offend or possibly even intimidate many of us in Porirua on a regular basis.
Now, of course, I’m not talking about being approached by an impoverished child, cap in hand like Oliver Twist.
It’s kids, teenagers – often in groups – who strategically position themselves near an ATM, train station or supermarket, and go to ‘‘work’’. There is concern that this sort of begging under false pretence is increasing, and as reported in Kapi-Mana News last week, a bylaw is being considered by Porirua City Council and police. The article has hit a chord with many readers.
I’ve received several emails and phone calls from folks sick and tired of being accosted on the street or at the train station, while online the article has received over 60 comments – easily a record for one of our stories.
There has been some pretty heated remarks, but some thoughtful ones too.
I particularly enjoyed the analogy to buskers, who – whether we appreciate it or not – offer us a skill in return for our investment. One reader even points the finger at those who give in to the beggars, fuelling the fire. For the most part, beggars – like telemarketers at dinner-time and door-knocking dogooders on Saturday morning – are an annoyance, but I appreciate shopkeepers don’t want their clientele bothered – or worse, choosing to go elsewhere.
Packs of teens preying on folks at the ATM machine, like dogs waiting for a sausage outside the butchery, is not the stuff award-winning cities are made of.
A city doesn’t want to be known for its beggars, but I’d imagine it also doesn’t want to be known for having to have an anti-begging bylaw either.
Still, if members of the public are indeed made to feel intimidated by these grovellers, then a new strategy needs to be actioned. The findings of council and police into the extent of the problem will make interesting reading.
I just find it terribly sad that we have young people in our city whose self-worth is so broken – or poorly formed – that the notion of begging for cash fails to trigger a little voice in their conscience that says, ‘‘I’m too good for this’’.
If they’re prepared to forsake their pride for a gold coin, what does their future hold?
Scouring rubbish bins for cigarettes that haven’t been smoked down to the filter?
The only kernel of optimism I can find in all this, misguided it may be, is in the kids who hang around the money machines.
If they really think someone is going to part with a crisp new $20 note because they mumbled something about wanting it, they best ride that bus back to delusionville. Matthew Dallas