'Your Help May Harm' campaign launched in Hamilton

Justin Karaitiana, 39, is not homeless, but begs on the streets of Hamilton, asking for cigarettes, money or food.
MARK TAYLOR/ FAIRFAX NZ

Justin Karaitiana, 39, is not homeless, but begs on the streets of Hamilton, asking for cigarettes, money or food.

A spare ciggie here and there, the occasional loose change, or a fast-pace, no-eye-contact, walk right past.

Justin Karaitiana never intended to be begging on the streets of Hamilton.

Yet there he is, twice a week along Victoria Street, asking people for cigarettes, money, or food,

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It's put him in the sights of a new campaign aimed at stopping panhandling in the CBD.

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Justin Karaitiana said although he is not homeless, he barely gets by on his benefit each week, forcing him to hit the ...
MARK TAYLOR/ FAIRFAX NZ

Justin Karaitiana said although he is not homeless, he barely gets by on his benefit each week, forcing him to hit the Hamilton streets.

Karaitiana is not homeless.

The 39 year old boards with his landlady, and is on a benefit. He gets roughly $180 a week - half of that goes on rent, about $60 on debt, and the rest is to last him the week.

He fractured his neck in 2012, and suffers from nerve damage in his hands. The cigarettes help with the pain, and he says he doesn't drink or gamble.

"I've got so many expenses coming out. My rent, bills that I ticked up when I was younger, so I always come up the street to get a little bit of extra money.

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"It's a real help."

This week the "Your Help May Harm" campaign was launched by the Hamilton Central Business Association, supported by the Hamilton City Council team, City Safe.

It is aimed to educate the public on the challenges with giving money to people on the streets. The focus instead is on other ways to get them help.

HCBA general manager, Sandy Turner, said research showed the majority of people who are begging in public spaces use the donations to support serious addictions.

She said rather than give them money, help guide them to the appropriate services available in Hamilton. 

"We live in a city that is very lucky to have amazing support services for people that find themselves in hardship or those who are most vulnerable.

"There is emergency housing, long-term housing, free meals, cooking and budgeting advice, emergency benefits."

A survey found people said they felt "intimidated and uncomfortable" while business owners were frustrated customers were being harassed for money whilst on their premises.

Turner added research showed the majority of people begging in the Hamilton CBD were not actually homeless.

"What was quite concerning was people turning up with their props. They'd bring their sleeping bags, cardboard, a sad, hungry dog, and park next to an ATM machine."

She said the campaign was about educating people.

"The public will be educated around giving people money, and the vulnerable people who are out there begging will get the right support they require so they no longer need to beg.

"This is not about denying support for people who find themselves in hardship, in fact it is about supporting these people to get the correct help."

Karaitiana said the campaign "sucks" for him. But he knows beggars who use the money for alcohol, drugs and gambling.

"It's not good for the rest of us who are trying to use the money for food and stuff.

"You've got people out here that can't find jobs, they're really struggling, and they've got no other avenues of support from friends or family.

"Even with my benefit money, I try to make it stretch. But it's still really hard."

Manger of the Hamilton Christian Nightshelter Trust, Peter Humphreys, believes the campaign will work.

"I can see it working in Hamilton if there is enough education for the public around where services are and what is available.

He said people should not give money if they really want to help.

"Never any money, because to me the giving of money is just keeping people on the streets and keeping them in habits that can sometimes eventually kill them."

 - Stuff

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