A bank and a social services agency are teaming up to address problem begging in Greerton.
Westpac and Te Tuinga Whānau Support Services Trust have created an ATM alternative for members of the public wanting to help the genuine homeless in Tauranga.
The idea was borne out of an April community meeting in Greerton where more than 100 people gathered in the village to discuss issues related to begging.
Te Tuinga Whānau director Tommy Wilson led the call for people to stop giving money to beggars on the street and instead direct their donations towards services helping the homeless.
After that meeting, Wilson approached the Chadwick Rd Westpac branch.
A plan was formed and a special bank account was created.
People can go to the branch and deposit a cash donation of any size (coins, notes or a cheque) into the homeless account using the bank's smart ATMs, available 24/7.
All the details are on a poster above the machines.
The money will be managed and distributed by trust staff, who will identify and engage people in genuine need.
Trust chairman Dr Bruce Bryant said there were a lot of members of the public who wanted to help but were confused about how to do that because of conflicting messages.
"Should you give money to a person in the street or should you not? We want to make it easy for people."
The 72-year-old said the trust's staff were extraordinarily skilled at working out the real from the fake.
"There are people out there that, God bless them, are scamming the system a bit. We know that."
Bryant said his organisation wanted to provide another option, not judge beggars or those who donate.
"These poor people, some of them have got no choice but to in fact put their hand out and ask for money ... this is a way for you to help and make sure it gets used properly."
Greerton Westpac bank manager Deborah Lee said she and her staff had seen the problem begging first-hand, including organised groups pretending to be homeless.
"Same people. Everyone in the community knows who they are. We see them all the time."
Lee said those "con people" were even harassing the elderly and disabled people in wheelchairs for money.
She encouraged people wanting to help to use the bank account instead of putting cash into cups.
Tommy Wilson said there were no bank or administration fees involved.
"This is all about getting what these street people and rough sleepers need, not what they want and if we can channel the flow of pūtea or koha to this account, across to Te Tuinga, then we can meet the genuine needs of not only the homeless people, but of those like Kai Aroha and Under the Stars and those people who are serving."
Wilson said the account would also encourage homeless people to engage with the trust in person instead of begging.
"The longer they sit across this side of the road and use the money to perpetuate the problems they are facing, they're not going to change. They're going to change when they walk across the road – with genuine needs a lot of them – and engage in help."
One of the people helping will be trust staff member Piki Russell, who has been on the frontline of homelessness for about 20 years.
Wilson said Russell knew most of the homeless people by name and was the perfect person to assess genuine needs.
"There are not many that can get through our Te Tuinga sieve," he said.
"We've got to get over the war stories repeating themselves and find out the genuine needs so we can give them genuine help."