Napier beg­gar ready to leave streets

The Napier Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MARTY SHARPE

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.

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