What do you think of beggars?

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:55 24/06/2013
Elizabeth Dempster
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

IT BEGS THE QUESTION: Elizabeth Dempster has been awarded a scholarship to complete her Masters research into public attitudes to begging on the streets of Palmerston North.

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Perceptions of Palmerston North panhandlers are coming under the microscope of a Massey University student, who is begging for people's views on the subject.

Elizabeth Dempster, 22, of Palmerston North, is studying towards a Master of Science in psychology and for her thesis is looking at "attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of the public towards beggars in Palmerston North".

She is about to mail a questionnaire to 1000 randomly selected residents, seeking their views.

Her questions also try to get an idea of what influences people's opinions.

For the purposes of her study, beggars are people who ask strangers for money, as opposed to people who may simply be homeless.

Mrs Dempster's research has been helped by a grant from the Graduate Women Manawatu Charitable Trust, and she is one of eight recipients who received scholarships on Saturday worth a total $60,000.

Mrs Dempster said there had been much research carried out on beggars themselves, but little into what people thought of them.

Because of the dearth of information, she is unsure what the results of her survey will be and has not come up with a hypothesis.

"Lots of people interview beggars and ask them why they are on the street and their circumstances. That's why I'm asking from the public's perspective."

She hopes to present her work to the Palmerston North City Council to inform policy on the matter.

Next year Mrs Dempster, who grew up on a Dannevirke farm, would like to do her on-the-job diploma in psychological practice and specialise in heath psychology.

The other students to receive grants from the trust are: Alexandra Brighten, Elizabeth Fox, Zoe Ferguson, Lena Olley, Kay Pilkington, Tessa Roberts and Christey West.

"In the current climate of reduced government support for graduate and postgraduate study, our awards are more necessary than ever," trust chairwoman Jean Corbin Thomas said.

The trust owns the gown-hire business used by Massey and money from that and other investments funds more than $100,000 in annual scholarships.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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