A Bay of Plenty retailer says sales are down since beggars began sitting on the footpath outside his shop.

Harpreet Gill of Bethlehem Four Square and Lotto said, in his view, customers feel intimidated.

''People feel unsafe because their legs are across the footpath,'' he said.

Read more: Fake beggars accused of intimidating and abusing shoppers


However, complaints to the police and the council have failed to move the beggars on because begging is not a crime.

Gill said the beggars first appeared nearly three months ago and there are now three or four regulars who are there from 7am to 7pm. One drives a car that takes up a park in front of the row of shops.

''When you ask them to move on, they challenge you ... it is very stressful dealing with them,'' he said.

Gill said the beggars try to attract the attention of passersby by saying hello, but a lot of people avoid talking to them.

He said he's losing customers and his sales have gone down by about 5 per cent since the beggars arrived. Gill has owned the shop for five years.

''I put in the hard work - it's really frustrating. This is why I pay my taxes, for someone to look after us.''

One of the beggars who was sitting outside the Four Square told the Bay of Plenty Times that he does not ask people for money because that could be seen as intimidating.

''He has a cheek ...,'' the beggar said in response to the comments by the retailer. He called himself Gene but declined to disclose his surname.

Gene said he is begging to survive. ''I never say anything but thank you - I appreciate the kindness.''

He said he is respectful and always pulls in his legs to make way for people walking past.

Quizzed about how a beggar could own a car, he responded: ''I have a car because I saved up for it. I don't spend money on drugs and rubbish. Sometimes I will buy cigarettes if I have the money.''

Beggar Gene says he is not intimidating people using the Bethlehem shops. Photo/George Novak
Beggar Gene says he is not intimidating people using the Bethlehem shops. Photo/George Novak

Gene said it's his business how he spends his money. ''It is up to me what I do with it - I sleep in the car.''

He does not believe their begging is responsible for the Four Square owner losing money and said he got a little bit annoyed when he was asked to move on. ''I ask the Lord for help.''

Gene said the money is spent on petrol, food and clothing. ''I am trying to get somewhere in life - alcohol, dope... really ruined me.''

His sign said: ''Homeless. Any spare coin. Please help. Thank you.''

Council parking and bylaws team leader Stuart Goodman said beggars do not break any laws by sitting on a public footpath.

The council has tried to engage with beggars in an attempt to connect them with support services. ''We have followed this process in this instance.''

Goodman said the council is proposing to incorporate a ban on rough sleeping and begging into its review of the Street Use & Public Places bylaw.

The ban would be in conjunction with the rollout of Housing First so support services are in place to assist rough sleepers.

Other nearby Bethlehem retailers supported the stance taken by Gill, with one woman who asked not be named saying she felt intimidated, particularly when she arrived at work at 8.30am to find a beggar in her doorway.

''I asked him if he could move and he said, 'I will move at five past nine'.''

Adrian Reading of Bethlehem Jewellers said a lot of his customers had complained about how the beggars sit with their legs out so there is not enough room to get past. ''They will try to get around them and they pull their legs up in the last minute.

''I have had words with them a number of times.''

Reading said there is a time restriction on the carparks but it is not actively patrolled by the council. Another issue is hearing the bass inside his shop from a boom box belonging to a beggar.

''They are not destitute,'' he said.

Another retailer who declined to be named said they are a new breed of beggars who pull up in the morning and put signs on the footpath.

Bethlehem Four Square owner Harpreet Gill is frustrated with the activities of beggars. Photo/George Novak
Bethlehem Four Square owner Harpreet Gill is frustrated with the activities of beggars. Photo/George Novak

He said it's wrong to have a carpark taken up for hours by beggars because all the businesses rely on turning over customers. ''If they can't park they will drive off.''

''Their behaviour might not be intimidating but it is their presence. It brings the area down a bit.''

Bethlehem resident Mike Baker said he has a lot of sympathy with the Four Square owner.

''If people did not fill the pockets of these beggars, they would go somewhere else. People are encouraging them to stay,'' Baker said.

Meanwhile, Greerton Village shopping centre's problem with beggars has not gone away, according to the promoter of the begging bylaw, city councillor Terry Molloy.

''If anything it has got worse,'' he said.

Retailers complained to the Bay of Plenty Times late last year that a group of men were intimidating and abusing shoppers and even approaching people before they got out of their cars.

''A lot of retailers are complaining about the effect it is having on their businesses," Molloy said.

He said people are crossing the road rather than risk being confronted.

''People have been instructed not to help them because help is not helping anybody. Very often the money does not go on food ... a certain amount of professional begging is showing its ugly face at Greerton.''

Tauranga's proposed bylaw to ban begging and rough sleeping
Mid-February: Commence community engagement.
July/August: Formal public consultation.
Late December: Adopt bylaw.
Source: Tauranga City Council.