Debate is raging as Tauranga City Council looks likely to pass a controversial bylaw banning begging and rough sleeping within 5m of CBD retail or hospitality premises next week.
Several city retailers said they were relieved the council was doing something about the problems, especially with begging gangs in the city.
They described urine in doorways, verbal abuse, property damage and customer intimidation and said they were tired of seeing sympathy piled on people who seemed to be spurning proper help - all the while their ratepaying businesses and families suffered.
They were unsure about enforcement of the bans, however, with one shop owner reporting seeing beggars measuring out 5m from her front door.
Leaders of two Tauranga social service agencies who work with the homeless have also weighed in, one in strong support of the bans and the other calling the rough sleeping ban "punitive".
At last vote on Tuesday, the council was split on the bans, with a committee recommending introducing the restrictions in the Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Greerton CBDs by just a one-vote margin, ahead of next week's full council vote.
Tommy Wilson, executive director of Greerton-based Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, whose staff worked with the homeless, said he supported the bans as "nothing changes when nothing changes".
"If we leave the begging situation as status quo the CBD businesses will suffer and the village environment out here in Greerton will continue to lose its vibrancy, something no resident of Tauranga would want."
He said most, if not all, rough sleepers had an income from a benefit, most beggars were funding an addiction, and that his team had never failed to house a person willing to engage with the service.
He said the community must stop giving beggars money, as it encouraged people to stay in the begging lifestyle rather than seeking help.
Wilson estimated Tauranga people were putting $2000 a day into the hands of beggars - well over half a million dollars a year.
The money could be better spent on housing, mental health and addiction services.
Simone Cuers, manager of the five-month-old Housing First scheme, People's Project Tauranga, said the rough sleeping ban would only serve to "hide" vulnerable people away.
"International evidence shows the only way to end homelessness is housing. Without access to housing, the bylaw is punitive."
She said service, focused on getting long-term rough sleepers off the streets, had 39 clients ready to be housed, but there were no houses available.
Meanwhile, several business owners said they felt compassion for people living on the streets but they were hurting too and, as ratepayers and taxpayers, deserved some help.
They wanted any councillor voting against the ban to come and spend a day in one of their shops.
Greerton Lotto owner Belinda Sands said she welcomed the bans as a tool to protect her business.
She said the last year had been a "bit of a nightmare". She had seen beggars fighting and had her window washing water poured over her head after she splashed a beggar who would not move, among other aggressive moves.
Tauranga Mainstreet chairman Brian Berry said business owners in the CBD were also welcoming the ban.
Bylaw adoption vote scheduled
- When: Tuesday, 1pm
- Where: Tauranga City Council chambers
- Topic: Street use and Public Places Bylaw
- Considering: whether to include bans on begging and rough sleeping within 5m of retail or hospitality premises.
- Committee votes: 5-5 for a begging ban and 5-6 for a rough sleeping ban.
Auckland looking to remove begging bylaw
Auckland Council wants to remove its 2014 begging bylaw wording.
The council said a review found the bylaw was not the most effective way to reduce nuisance and intimidation from begging.
"Our compliance officers ... have found it is face-to-face engagement, relationship building and providing access to social services that gives more meaningful support and makes a difference in the long term."
Ricardo Menendez of Auckland Action Against Poverty said Tauranga would end up like Auckland, with people living under bridges and in far-flung parks, if it did not stop the bans, which would only serve to further marginalise people.
"The council should be putting its resources and energy to increasing council-owned homes instead of scapegoating our most vulnerable for political gains."
He condemned both bans as "callous" and "cruel".