Group's bid to feed homeless in city centre declined

PERMANENT FIXTURE: Hamilton Homeless organiser Claire Chapman wants to serve food to the homeless and poor in Garden Place every night.
PERMANENT FIXTURE: Hamilton Homeless organiser Claire Chapman wants to serve food to the homeless and poor in Garden Place every night.

The Hamilton City Council has turned down an application by the Hamilton Homeless group to feed the city's vagrant population in Garden Place each evening.

Protecting the public and stemming the offensive behaviour of some of the homeless people who congregate in the city centre were the council's main reasons for declining a permit to Hamilton Homeless to serve food in Garden Place and Civic Square seven days a week from 5.30pm to 7pm.

The group has links to Kyle Chapman, the former leader of the National Front and founder of Right Wing Resistance group. Chapman was, for a time, Hamilton Homeless' funding co-ordinator, and the organiser of meals on Thursday nights.

When contacted by the Waikato Times and asked to clarify whether he was still involved with Hamilton Homeless, Chapman said: ''I don't represent Hamilton Homeless,'' before hanging up.

Likewise Claire Chapman - Kyle Chapman's wife and the manager of Hamilton Homeless - said her husband's part in the group was ''none of your business'', before she also hung up on the Times.

Council chief executive Barry Harris stressed Chapman's involvement or otherwise with the group was not a factor in the council's decision, which was determined by its public places policy and bylaw.

Specifically the application would have transgressed the bylaw in three significant areas - protect the public from nuisance; protect promote and maintain public health and safety; and minimise the potential for offensive behaviour in public places.

''We have received a number of complaints in relation to the Hamilton Homeless group's activities across the city, which we are responding to by declining the permit to protect the public and minimise offensive behaviour,'' Harris said.

''It is our role as a regulatory authority to ensure the rules which are set for the benefit of all of the community are enforced.

"We have worked hard to find an alternative location for the group to carry out their activity. This has involved making contact with 11 different facilities as well as a number of agencies who currently provide food to the homeless in Hamilton. We are happy to help them find a suitable location option and we will work with them to ensure they comply with council regulations.''

Harris said he had not had any negative experiences with vagrants in the city, however the council had fielded numerous complaints about them from the public and businesses alike.

''Garden Place is our premiere open space ... in our view the application would interfere with its vibrancy.

''I think we have a growing problem [with homeless]. It's a complex situation and entwined with issues of alcohol and substance abuse that need to be solved at the same time.''

Before she hung up on the Times, Claire Chapman said she believed the council should be doing more to help the homeless through their group and she was due to meet with them tomorrow to discuss the matter.

''There are people in Hamilton that are in need ... the services we provide should be commended.''

The number of homeless people in the city was growing, she said.

''We are seeing totally new faces all the time.''

She also said the homeless situation was far from the central city's biggest problem.

''They say it's not vibrant enough. Well, they shouldn't spend $45 million on a dying city. Just look at every second or third shop - it's desolate.''

Waikato Times