So it’s pretty hard to walk ten metres on Queen st without being asked for spare change from a homeless person.
I was talking to a couple of girls who live with their parents in Fort st. They were around fifteen or sixteen I guess and they had come out begging for the evening. Not because they need the money but because they know it is a lucrative trade. A naive-looking man in his early twenties is walking near us so they say ‘Hey, can you give us twenty dollars?’ And as the saying goes: a fool and his money are soon parted. I believe the man gave them the money because the way they asked was so brazen and confident that he couldn’t think of any reason why not. Perhaps He should be admired for his generosity. Perhaps he should be schooled for his naivety. Perhaps Auckland council should make it more difficult for the 100 or so homeless people on Queen street to beg.
As I have ridden the rickshaw up and down Auckland’s streets every week for the last eight years I have seen a lot of begging. There is one particular homeless man, a skinny older guy, quite short, with a bare chest and a leather coat and hat that I have spoken to often. He assures me that he makes around $25 per hour on Friday and Saturday nights. But I don’t need to take his word for it, this is not a tall tale. His begging spot is on the steps of Danny Doolans in the Viaduct so I see the money pouring into his cup. He harasses and even pursues people as they walk to constantly importune for coins. Drunk people are not necessarily in possession of their full brain capacity so I certainly believe he is making in excess of $500 per weekend. So I asked him why he is homeless if he makes this much money and his reply was that he has been coming it for so long that he is just used to it. And I guess it is only money. But I cannot count the number of times the police have come down and taken him away for drunkenly, violently harassing people.
Walking on Queen st sometime the begging goes beyond the importunate and is definitely harassment. Many times having said no to their request for money I receive a ‘fuck you then’. As if it is their right to receive money for doing nothing more than asking for it. And somehow I deserve to be abused for not contributing to their pocketbook in the same way that the unemployment benefit does.
Riding through the streets of Auckland I see a lot of incredible, weird and broken things at the small end of the night. A lot of folk having the ride of their life: A lot of people devolving. These are my reflections.