Being poor 'a crime' in NZ

Last updated 15:05 04/07/2013

BEGGING BAN: If we cannot see or hear the homeless, they will not exist. Every ostrich knows this.

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With the Big Sleepout with Lifewise tonight in Auckland, Simon Buckingham looks at where the city's leaders stand when it comes to those in need on our streets.

OPINION: One the one hand we have Dr Cathy Casey taking part in the Big Sleepout to raise money and awareness around homelessness, alongside people like Phil Twyford, Jacinda Adern, and many other people from the police to the church to multinational corporations. I am also proud to be taking part. This event is not a political event. It is about compassion and caring for those who need a voice.

On the other hand, we have Auckland councillors, such as Mike Lee, who seem keen to further marginalise those in need by supporting the begging ban, which will force people off the streets and back into shops so that they must steal to live as opposed to asking for help.

Nice one guys. Let's increase the crime rate so we can blame beneficiaries and poor people yet again. After all, being poor is now almost a crime under John Key and his government, so let's ensure that we all think in this way, denying the issue as opposed to addressing it.

The thing that really horrifies me is that the New Zealand public is likely to buy this as it is dressed up in platitudes referring people to organisations set up to help. These same organisations have had less and less Government funding and are struggling to survive.

These organisations do a fantastic job but are already stretched to capacity. Where is the extra funding so that they can actually do the Government's job for them and support the disenfranchised? What is wanted is poor people not to be seen or heard. After all, if we cannot see or hear them, they will not exist. Every ostrich knows this.

There are people who are homeless who are not very nice. There is the odd beggar who is too threatening or aggressive. However, we have laws to deal with these people who are threatening, and often there are associated mental health issues causing these symptoms.

Too many of these people have been put on the streets, and it seems like now we want them to disappear. Where has our compassion gone? Has National sold this off too?

The answer is affordable housing and proper healthcare, especially in the disability sector, which is woefully under-represented, and funding for groups like Lifewise to an extent where they can really alleviate the issue. 

We are returning to Dickensian times, and unless we do something as individuals to be part of the solution, we will remain part of the problem.

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