Giving money to beggars makes the problem worse


Stephanie McIntyre has a radical solution for solving the growing number of people begging on the street: Don’t give them a cent.

McIntyre is the director of Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) in Wellington.

DCM’s main focus is on ending homelessness and supporting people to get access to income, but she says putting money in the hat does not work.

“The complexity around poverty and the amount of people who are really poor and the degree to which they are poor, that’s what I am seeing.”

“I am not surprised for one second that that is reflected over in street begging.”

“Whichever way you look at it, every single person who is out there street begging is poor.”

But giving money and food directly to beggars is not the answer, she says.

DCM works alongside Ngati Kahungunu and the Soup Kitchen dispatching outreach teams who approach those on the street offering help to link them with the services they need.

Stuff reporter Bess Manson describes how at 9am McIntyre joins her staff and those who have come off the street for their morning karakia outside the inner city Luke’s Lane premises.

The congregation sings Hallelujah in Te Reo. A heavenly sound rising from a dishevelled choir.

After a prayer, they all head inside. Some have come for help with housing matters, some to see the nurse or dentist.

Others to use the food bank or simply to spend time at Te Hapai, a welcoming and safe place within DCM for people to attend programmes, play music or just hang out.

McIntyre says giving money and food directly to beggars “is charity at it worst.”

“We talk here about the practice of manaakitanga – it is built around the word mana.

Mana is about respectfulness, a lifting up of one another. Begging and giving to someone begging is not practising manaakitanga. It’s a demeaning and disrespectful [act].

McIntyre suggests people should sit and have a chat with someone who is begging, ‘say gidday, have a yarn.”

But “Don’t give anything. Ask if they are going to DCM, Soup Kitchen or somewhere else. That would be the most effective way to stop it.”


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