Arrests highlight issue of homelessness

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 11/09/2012
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The arrest of six drunken men in central Hamilton has put the spotlight back on the city's homeless problem and comes as a taskforce investigates ways to tackle the issue.

Restaurant staff arriving for work about 6.30am yesterday found the group outside the former Valley Club on Collingwood St, drunk and acting aggressively.

People first started sleeping in the abandoned balcony about two weeks ago.

Initially there was just one person but more followed.

The group was shouting at passers-by and urinating on the street.

"I saw at least two bottles of bourbon empty and inside their bags they had 1.5 litre bottles full of wine," one witness said.

"They were playing around like children, boxing. I think one of them was even abused by the others. It's not nice to see in the central city at 6.30 on a Monday morning."

The men had made the balcony "home" and it had become "disgusting" - inside there were blood splatters, cigarette butts, a cardboard mattress, a blanket and the stink of stale urine.

Five men were arrested initially at about 9am and police returned to arrest another shortly after he allegedly started abusing nearby cafe staff.

Michael Henwood, acting sergeant of Hamilton Police beat section, said three people were arrested for breaching the liquor ban, two for disorderly behaviour and one had a warrant for his arrest.

All six men are due to appear in court at a later date.

Mr Henwood said they were "extensively" known to police.

"A couple live in the homeless shelter regularly and a couple have home addresses but tend to hang out in town a lot and the others come and go. The label homeless is a bit liberal - some pick and choose from day to day."

He said it was unusual to arrest a group of six in one hit.

Measures such as free medical care, ratepayer funding for accommodation, and dedicated courts are now being considered in a review of Hamilton City Council's social wellbeing strategy.

Earlier this year the council knocked back Hamilton Christian Nightshelter Trust for $40,000 a year through a service level agreement to help fund the shelter.

matt.bowen@waikatotimes.co.nz

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