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Sarah Helm: Homeless And Unwanted In Wellington

Homeless And Unwanted In Wellington

By Sarah Helm
5 August 2004

Police are using bullying tactics and arresting people unfairly a homeless man told a Wellington City Council meeting, which discussed a strategy on homelessness, yesterday.

Anton Patu-Wairua said police had arrested him for singing, along with the people he was with.

The police laughed when a woman’s pants fell down as they dragged her away, he said.

“If I break the law I expect to be arrested. But I do not expect a policeman to stand there for 20 minutes trying to pick a fight with me so he can arrest me.”

Mayor Prendergast said the council instructed the police to arrest the homeless people, which was the only means available to deal with the problem at the time.

The council’s role was to look after the majority of rate-payers and not the interests of a few people, she said.

Councillor Stephanie Cook said that arresting people was not a sustainable solution.

“Eventually they come out [of prison] and nothing has changed.

“A lot of people on the streets have come out of prison.”

The council’s homelessness strategy was positive and she was looking forward to the formation of an action plan early next year, she said.

The council’s community, health and recreation committee voted unanimously to refer the homelessness strategy to a wider council meeting.

The committee received 23 submissions on the strategy, and consulted with homeless people in a meeting in Thistle Hall on June 3 attended by 25 people.

Mr Patu-Wairua said the homeless would best be helped by the creation of a 24-hour drop-in centre which should include bathrooms, washing facilities and storage.

Homeless people were banned from many social services which were catering for low-income people only.

Most would not go to the night shelter because it was run by a policeman, he said.

A report received by the council also proposed the employment of two outreach workers, and to undertake research on homelessness.

**** ends ****

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