Hoards of Panhandlers

What follows, is an abridged part of an e-mail, I just sent to the Mayor and all City Councilors, about the effects on Busking from an explosion in the number of people just Begging, sit down with a sign. This week a fellow busker was bullied off a good location. I do try to look at all situations with regards to regulating rather than banning begging. To limit the time on any single place would at least give the hard working Buskers a chance at for ta coin.

I am calling for the council to review the panhandling situation. In particular I note that Buskers are not permitted to sit on 1 spot all day, almost every day and I ask that begging be also limited in that way. This would level the playing field and give some buskers a chance to make a coin also. You might like to leave a comment on this topic.

[ Following, is an abridged part of an e-mail sent to Wellington City Council ]

An important marketing tool, performance art in the street is part of the soul of this city. It is actually good for business when people linger longer to watch part of the show while browsing at shop windows nearby. This is due to a high level of skill often on guitar and pure entertainment value. A lot of us older buskers are still out there, working part time. The WCC has stated that Buskers make people feel safe on the streets.
In 2001 (while studying multimedia) I made a submission to the WCC Busking License reform process. Buskers are subject to regulation and can not occupy one location all day. The time eventually agreed upon was 90 minutes. I have a bit of gear to set up and this was also considered. I am proud that my hometown has always been busking friendly, from when I started. In the early 1980’s this liberal council was the leader in the local performing street arts and music, and Wellington still is in the leading NZ Cities.

However, over the past 4 years or so, as the effects of long-term unemployment gets so much worse, there has been a huge explosion in the number of people, who sit down in the street with a sign begging for money. There only used to be a few of them in the past but now they are everywhere, just bludging without hope. A concern is that older folk often believe what is written on those signs, then give the last $20 note, out of sympathy. Of course a lot is spent on booze and drugs, as the beggers try to cope with their lot in life. Try not to blame them over much for that, if you can. Suffering is genuine enough.

Some beggers often sit at one location all day raking in the notes, while surrounding ther hard working Buskers (who must have a permit). Last year I often performed for less than $5 an hour, hardly paying for the bus. Because there is nothing in place to deal with this situation, on Tuesday this week, a fellow busker (also with a permit, and also serious health condition) was bullied off one of the best spots by a begger. I let him take over the spot up the road that I was on. I am concerned, for he was traumatized. There are two beggers across Bay Road and one on each side most days. This is why there are fewer buskers this summer.

To make a by-law prohibiting begging in the street would probably result with a big increase in crime. Things have changed over the past 3 years and the reality is that begging may be here to stay now. But their numbers have exploded and something has to be done.

What I am proposing, is that Beggers (panhandlers) should be regulated in the same way that Buskers are. After a given time, they must also move on. That would at least give Buskers a fair and equal chance at survival. We entertain for our coins. I wonder, is there a 3rd party insurance requirement on beggers, like there is for Buskers?

There are always a few buskers who can make a lot of money, due to their high level of mastery of the craft and shear entertainment value. But most of us do not make much. I am only an average guitarist but was blessed with a voice I could train, and so I still give it a go. Years of practice also helps.
Often beggers and buskers all live in the same City Housing blocks. Some people might get upset with a new rule, but there would also be advantages for beggers. To have a right to say that I got this spot first, wait for another hour or so. The frail beggers also need protection from a few greedy people that hog all the best spots every day. Without any regulation some have become very aggressive. The Busking time rules were made to ensure that common sense and sharing of the resource more often prevails.

In the 1991 Black Budget, almost 30% was taken from the base rate of welfare benefits and the pensions. There have been almost no adjustments for inflation since, no matter which party is in power. Wellington City Housing is the only actual security I know. I am most very grateful, as I am going gray.
I believe that it is most important for this city to remain independent. The Super-City is a bad model and has been proven not to work. Wellington City Council is almost fantastic and we do not want someone else compelling you to change your Social Housing policy in the future. This is vital for everybody in this city, surviving below a living wage.

I have been talking with the WCC Hosts about their role with beggers, and the advice they are instructed to give to these unfortunate people, who are out there begging all of the time. I believe that the time has come to re-assess the Begging situation before someone else gets hurt. There must be some legal restraint soon. Please limit the time that any Begger can occupy one area. Please give the hard working buskers at least a level playing field with those increasing hoards of panhandlers.

A lot of folk have commented to me, they are now utterly sick of the constant donation fatigue. Just a few of those Beggers are getting heavy on Bay Road in Kilbirnie. It is just not right to sit on one spot all day, every day and chase other buskers and beggers away. I love busking in this city but it has become quite intimidating too often.

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