I've lived in Wellington for 11 years (whoah!). In that time there has been the occasional beggar. There's "Homeless and Hungry" guy, who I've seen on Courtenay, Willis and at the train station at various times over the last four years. There was Ben Hana, who didn't beg because (I think ) people just gave him stuff. There was Simon who hung out on Cuba St, sometimes busking, sometimes begging. There's "Excuse Me" guy who hangs out on Courtenay/Dixon asking for 'bus fare'. That's all I can think of. Seeing a beggar in Cuba Mall was a reasonably rare occurrence.
Now, I regularly see 2 or 3 people begging in the mall as I wander around. Partly it might be because I live there now - but I don't think so. It's too regular, and they are there at times, like Friday afternoons, when previously I'd be passing through and see none. They are men, without fail - usually middle-to-older aged men but not always. They sit with their cardboard sign and their hat out, often in our doorway out of the wind, for hours at a time. Usually there are only a few coins in the hat.
It's.. disheartening. I used to be able to say with my hand on my heart that nobody starves to death in New Zealand. I'm not convinced that's true any more. And for those of you who had any doubt about it, this has only become the case since the 2008 election. I know there's been a global financial crisis, an earthquake and a bunch of other things that have made for tough times. But really? When the wealthiest 150 people in the country are 20% richer than they were in 2010, you have to ask yourself just how are we supposed to believe that things are tough all over? Seems to me that things are not particularly tough for those people on that list, eh?
There are more than 20% more beggars in Cuba Mall these days, just saying.