If Hawke's Bay beggars can get their act together and syndicate together for their cause, then surely the rest of us can also.

I've been watching the discussion and debate growing locally and nationally on the issue of begging and homelessness. It's been interesting to note the calibre of commentators and people working in this space in Hawke's Bay, ranging from Government to community organisations and all its professionals within.

This is a network of smart and experienced people. They often represent organisations with some serious pull.

Why then does the issue of begging and homelessness still exist in our cities when there seems to be an army of resources and organisations already working in this space?

I believe beggars are in one of two camps. They are either those that would come off the streets if given alternative options and required support, or those that largely would still return to the streets to beg as a lifestyle choice no matter what. Either way, if ever they are to come off the streets, intensive mechanisms and intervention will be required to help usher them into a more supported life.


I believe we as a region already have a lot of support to offer on this front, it just needs to be brought together and co-ordinated more effectively so the left hand knows what right hand is doing. I echo the sentiments of others on this front.

Take, for example, this scenario.

A few months back I was on a flight back home from Wellington. I sat next to a man on the plane and engaged in the obligatory pleasantries: ''How was your day, where are you off to?"

I came to learn that he was a senior personnel officer with the Hawke's Bay District Health Board's mental-health team.

He was relatively new to the role, enthused about the position and spoke highly of his vision for community mental health, which included venturing into more innovative models and approaches to community mental health.

I took the opportunity to ask him a pressing question. I informed him of my roles and explained that in my community roles I often heard public perception was that mental-health services are at capacity, underfunded and largely inaccessible to the public - ''What say you?''

I was pleased to hear his response, that he believed they did have capacity to assist current demand and he was happy to help any who may be struggling to access services.

It was pleasing also recently to receive an email from the Ministry of Social Development outlining that it has purchased a motel in Hastings to serve as transitional housing. I believe a motel has been purchased for Napier also.


The purchase is part of a wider cross-agency programme aimed at securing more transitional and emergency housing places for people in need.

Those homes will be managed by social-support providers and will provide a warm, dry and safe place for people to live for an average of 12 weeks or longer if required. Once tenants move into longer-term accommodation they'll continue to receive support for a further 12 weeks.

These are big wins for our region in this space. Beggars and homelessness are not synonymous but often the issues are inter-linked.

I think transitional living support like this has been much needed in the region, so it's a strong step in the right direction of supporting people in our community with housing needs.

Begging and associated issues such as homelessness, mental health, etc are complex issues. For many I believe intensive case management and sustained support will help.

We already have the capacity as a region to give much support Collaboration on this front still needs strengthening but good foundations are there.

*Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings district councillor, a board member of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board and is on the EIT Council.