Shop owners in Hastings west say anti-social and aggressive behaviour by a group of homeless people is coming to a head, intimidating customers and locals.
Police on Thursday were called to Stortford Lodge where a woman, understood to be homeless, received minor injuries in an altercation after a theft that involved a knife.
A 31-year-old man and 32-year-old woman were charged with assault and theft and a third was released without charge.
It's an incident that shop owners say they have feared for a while.
FORCED ON TO THE STREET
One of the men who lives on the street, described by the shop owners as the one "friendly" homeless man, says the shop owners are right - life on the street can get heated.
The man, who did not want to be named, lives and sleeps in the area by himself and has done since about October last year.
He lost his job in 2017 and had some experiences which "knocked me back". After living off $20,000 in his savings, and incurring a large amount of debt on credit cards, he made the decision to live in his car.
Then even that became unsustainable and he sold the car and began living on the street to save more money in an attempt to pay off his debt faster.
He does get a benefit, but after debt repayments is left with $19 a week, he says.
"It was my choice; I could've paid less debt and kept more money back but my whole idea is to knock this debt out as soon as I can."
The man said he has about $30,000 in his KiwiSaver but is unable to access it to live off, which he said would help his situation.
Life on the street in Stortford Lodge isn't easy - he said he was wary of the homeless folk who live with dogs alongside them, and there have been instances where he has also been assaulted.
"You can get the odd bit of aggressive attitude out here.
"For me living on the streets, I just have to be as compassionate and humble as I can."
He said some of the local businesses and people have been helpful in giving him food.
"I'm grateful for whatever I get but I have no expectations."
The man said that by the end of next year, when most of his debt is cleared, he will able to use his funds to "get into a better position" and hoped to be off the streets by then.
THIS IS 'INTOLERABLE'
Shop owners say the friendly homeless man is the exception rather than the rule.
A larger group of about five who are sleeping outside the Heretaunga St shops are intimidating customers and using the back of shops and neighbouring house lawns as toilets, they said.
It's an issue which has been going on for about a year but the past two months has become "intolerable", says shop owner Rene.
Last week she said there had been three customers in one day complain and say they wouldn't come back to her shop because of the people.
She has tried to call the police twice.
Shop owner Marianne is also concerned about having customers driven away, especially after having already dealt with the implications of Covid-19.
"We have to ask people to leave our tables inside and outside about 10 times a day.
"We are all empathetic ... but we are also empathetic to our customers and our own needs, we fought hard to own our own business."
She feels that the Stortford Lodge shops have become "the corner ... like in Auckland at the top of Queen St".
There have been instances of dogs pooing on three neighbours' properties and a man vomiting on someone's front lawn, Rene says.
Another concern is the dogs becoming vicious. "They're going to attack someone soon. I think they will attack a child."
Marianne said the elderly who live in the area and use the local businesses feel scared.
Both of the women are fearful to leave the shop alone at night and Marianne ensures that all her young staff members arrive at a different location to be picked up and taken to work as a group.
Marianne says it's a bigger problem and if people ask them to move on, they will just go to another set of shops.
'AWARE OF ISSUES'
Hastings District Council group manager corporate Bruce Allan said the council is "aware of issues in this part of town" and are in regular contact with police over the matter.
The City Assist and communities teams are also in regular contact with the homeless in the area.
A police spokeswoman said community officers are actively working with local retailers, business owners and the council to address community concerns about crime in the area.