Dave Burgess at the Dom Post went begging:
Powerful yet unexpected emotions struck me just minutes into my stint as a beggar. I was feeling like a low-life who would surely be ignored, abused or humiliated by passing pedestrians.
It didn’t help that the people walking past towered above as I sat forlornly on the ground. They were largely reduced to a mass of knees and feet but held the moral and physical high ground.
While depressing messages were crashing around in my head, the reality presenting itself was surprisingly uplifting.
People really cared and showed a huge amount of compassion and generosity to someone who had apparently hit rock bottom.
By caring people, I mainly mean women, of all ages and races. Over the combined four hours’ begging I received $126.20 from 32 people – but only five donations came from men.
The IRD said my begged money is considered a gift and does not attract tax. That is unlike street buskers, who are supposed to declare their earnings.
$126.20 over four hours is a very nice $31.55 an hour. And that is tax free. But with the donated food it comes to $164.70 or $41.18 an hour.
But if you compare it to pre-tax income, to see how much one would have to earn to receive the same amount in the hand, it equates to $60.01 an hour or an equivalent annual salary of $125,000 a year.
So maybe next time you see a beggar, you should ask him or her for a donation!
Work and Income deputy chief executive Patricia Reade says Wellington case managers have visited beggars on the street about 20 times over the past six months to find out if they need help.
“The majority of beggars have refused to speak to us and in fact only one person accepted an invitation to discuss their benefit entitlements.”
I’m impressed WINZ are proactive and regularly seek out beggars to see if they need help. The fact that almost none ever take up the offer of assistance confirms that their presence on the streets is not a matter of poverty or necessity – but normally a reflection of mental health issues and/or addiction problems.