Napier beggar ready to leave streets
A prominent Napier beggar will soon leave the city streets after being provided a home, a benefit, and treatment for his addictions.
Major Keelan, 47, appeared in Napier District Court on Wednesday, where he pleaded guilty to three charges of using a credit card he had found on the street to buy groceries.
Keelan’s lawyer Alan Cressey told Judge Tony Adeane that Keelan, who had ‘‘become the spokesman for the homeless’’, was ‘‘a success story’’ of Napier City Council’s initiative aimed at addressing homelessness.
‘‘Housing New Zealand has found him a house. He shifts in with his partner on the 7th of September. Until then he’s on the streets,’’ Cressey said.
‘‘He has a child aged two, who’s in CYF’s care. Major and his partner get the child back on the 7th if they go into the Housing NZ house,’’ he said.
Cressey said the council initiative had also led to Keelan being referred for alcohol drug counselling and he had started this.
‘‘He’s also now been put on the sickness benefit.’’
He said Keelan owed nearly $2000 in outstanding fines dating back to 2012.
Cressey asked the judge to remit the fines in order ‘‘to give him a fresh start‘‘.
Judge Adeane cancelled the fines, ordered Keelan to come back to court if called upon and ordered him to undertake 80 hours community work.
Council’s community strategies manager Natasha Carswell said, ‘‘we’re really pleased for Major, and that he’s taken these positive steps forward’’.
Keelan was one of three beggars to have been charged by the council earlier this year for breaching city bylaws by soliciting for money.
The beggars pleaded not guilty, arguing that begging was a ‘‘fundamental freedom of expression’’ permitted under the Bill of Rights. Police later withdrew the charges.