“Opportunistic” begging a matter of safety for Wellington’s elderly
April 24, 2017
Beggars in Wellington have been targeting the elderly and making them feel unsafe, Wellington city councillors have been told.
Fed up with beggars approaching her, Kilbirnie resident Glennis Posisch made her first appearance before councillors on April 20. She implored the city strategy committee meeting to consider the safety of elders and start a conversation around what she called “opportunistic begging” in the city.
Posisch said the begging culture in Wellington was getting out of hand and school kids were starting to harass people for money.
She recalled an incident last year that made her feel unsafe in the city after dark. “I was approached by a man on Willis Street at night who came out of the shadows and asked me for money.
“As an old woman walking by herself, I’m a target.”
Posisch said it was unfortunate to see teenagers also taking part. “School kids do it for a dare, or fun – who knows.”
She had had a similar interaction with another man asking for money in daylight hours. “He asked a woman with grey hair walking in front of me and when she declined, he asked me.”
Posisch understood that beggars were often sufferers of mental illness but clarified her problem was with those who were simply looking to make some easy cash.
“He was not mentally unwell. He was obviously on the ball and it was opportunistic.”
She said the experience was unpleasant and intimidating. “I felt I was being accosted.”
Posisch said the problem might not be a prevalent issue for members of council. “Looking at you, I wouldn’t imagine they ask you people.”
Laughter broke out when members of the committee commented “Yes, they would.”
Posisch said the council advised the public to contact police if they felt unsafe. “But the person still has to deal with the situation at the time.
“It matters to me that I feel safe in the streets in broad daylight,” she said.
Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman spoke briefly on being approached by beggars after Posisch’s presentation. “Being six feet (1.8 metres) tall, 107 kilograms and at the peak of my physical youth it doesn’t intimidate me.”
When the laughter subsided Calvi-Freeman continued, “But seriously it does worry me and I’m grateful to you, it gives me pause for thought.”
Calvi-Freeman said he had not considered that beggars would target those more vulnerable on the street.
Chairperson Iona Pannett told Posisch the member of the committee responsible for social development would be in contact.
The councillor responsible, Brian Dawson, remained silent throughout the presentation and question time.
Posisch tabled her presentation for further consideration by councillors. She was directed to speak with community services manager Jenny Rains after the meeting to discuss the next step in private.
After the meeting Posisch said the issue of begging in Wellington was only getting worse. She was glad she got a chance to address the councillors. She wanted to bring the issue before them while she was still capable.
“I’m not getting any younger,” Posisch said. “I’m going to keep coming in to town for as long as I can. But it’s not good if I’m going to have to keep dealing with this.”