John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Call for solution to homeless problem

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The increasing numbers of homeless and beggars are making a nuisances of themselves in the city centre.
The increasing numbers of homeless and beggars are making a nuisances of themselves in the city centre.

Tauranga retailers are seeking a quicker solution to problems caused by increasing numbers of homeless and beggars making nuisances of themselves in the city centre.

Downtown Tauranga manager Sally Cooke told councillors that the issue of homeless people sitting outside shops all day and intimidating people had been particularly prevalent in the lead up to Christmas.

"The matter needs attention," she said.

Mainstreet Tauranga's six-monthly report to the council yesterday included retailers wanting action on the "noticeable increase in homeless people and beggars" in the last six months.

They sit outside businesses and take up residence for the day. It can be quite confronting.

Ms Cooke said there was no quick fix and they were not asking for the homeless to be moved out of the downtown. However, there should be better lines of communication so that when issues arose they could be dealt with quicker.

"They sit outside businesses and take up residence for the day. It can be quite confronting."

Ms Cooke said solutions needed to be compassionate and she favoured a multi-agency approach.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said it remained an issue despite the city having a night shelter and a number of other agencies and churches that helped the homeless. He questioned whether it was linked to the state of mental health services and lack of support for the services.

"What steps can we take to reduce the issues?"

Read more: Harassed by the homeless

Mr Crosby had seen people buying boxes of bourbon and coke from money they had received while begging. Interviewed after the meeting, he said there did not appear to be a total solution. However, the council and social agencies needed to make sure that everything that could be done was being done.

He noticed people camping next to the children's playground on the waterfront during his bike ride on Sunday.

Mr Crosby said community wardens, Maori Wardens and police had got on top of problems at the Willow St bus stops, including the elderly being intimidated.

Problems with the homeless escalated at certain times of the year and although the council had a strong relationship with police, at the end of the day it was a community issue, he said. "The police can only do so much."

Mr Crosby said the issue revolved around the use of drugs and alcohol by homeless men, with begging a relatively new phenomenon. "They can be a nuisance and intimidating."

The next step was to make sure there were strong lines of communications between agencies so that when issues arose there was a proper and timely response.

"It goes in waves. At the present time it is reasonably quiet," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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