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“Scum” at the Dickson shops… really?

By Steven Bailey 17 February 2015 27

Musician and local icon Sydney

In recent weeks there has been lots of community discussion about people busking, begging and generally loitering at the Dickson shops. Last week I was listening to a local radio station, and during this particular segment listeners called in to complain about being pestered by the local ‘riff-raff’.

Listeners complained of being harassed and even assaulted on their way to the local shops. Of course this behaviour is to be condemned, and I must admit that sometimes I get a bit shirty with the young tourists who relentlessly nag people to sign up to a charity. I respect them for the job that they are doing however, as it must be a hard gig.

I have never had a problem with any of these people at Dickson, and over the years I have gotten to know many of them as friends.

So last week, I decided to take some time out of my morning and have a chat with a few of the Dickson locals. I was struck by the generosity and humanity with which they shared their stories and struggles; their hardships and their sorrows.

Well-known 88-year-old busker, Sydney (pictured above), told me how his mother gave him up to an orphanage when he was a child, and how he searched for his father after fighting in World War II. He told me how he contemplated committing suicide one day but was talked out of it by his neighbour.

“I didn’t do it because I loved my kids too much, but I would have if they weren’t around,” he said.

Sydney plays the harmonica most days of the week outside of the Dickson Woolworths, and I was humbled when he told me that he gives all of the proceeds to charity.

“You’ve got to do something with your life, otherwise you’ll just rot I suppose,” he said.

Sydney is getting married in September this year.

One of the men who spoke to me I know quite well. Recently his mother died, he has a brain tumour, and has suffered learning difficulties all of his life. He told me that he can’t wait to leave Canberra.

“Some people are really nasty for no reason”, he said.

“All I do is sing for a few coins. I don’t know why the police told me to go away.”

When I asked charity worker Day Mattar how he copes with the constant rejection, he burst out laughing, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Mate, I’m used to rejection – I’m a gay man for god’s sake!”

Many of the callers on the local radio station were calling for tougher laws and regulations to remove people who pestered them. I do understand their frustration, but the ACT already has many laws in place to deal with people who are making a nuisance of themselves. If you feel threatened, call the police. In the meantime, maybe you could get to know some of these people – they’re not all that bad.

What’s Your opinion?


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27 Responses to
“Scum” at the Dickson shops… really?
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RDS 4:56 pm 05 Mar 15

chewy14 said :

RDS said :

Thank you for writing this article.

It bothers me when I see people (even friends) complaining about buskers, or people who ask for money, donations or for you to sign up to charity groups. Some need to remember that if people had not stooped to a low point in their life and thought they had an alternative, they probably would not choose to sit outside in the sun, hot or cold each day and ask people for money over and over to be rejected, in some cases abused and given dirty looks. It would be humiliating and hard to deal with.

The way I see it is – if you want to and you have loose money to spare you can help out and if you don’t want to and don’t have time you can walk off. There is no point in degrading or complaining about people who aren’t harming anyone. Of course, some people like to complain about anyone and everything. I think it’s a disease and you have to wonder why it bothers them so much – is it because you’re a privileged, stressed out snob?

If someone is bothering you by asking for money or cigarettes and has done this on more than one occasion – why not laugh it off and tell them that they asked you five minutes ago?

It is a business owner or manager’s responsibility to politely ask them to busk a bit further away.

If you are being harassed by a junkie then you can notify security or notify police. Do not engage with them at all even to say no or make eye contact. You don’t need to.

You’re missing the point.

In Australia we have a significant social safety net that will help anyone who needs it. It may not be ideal but there is definitely help available for those who want it. These people may have had a hard life or made bad decisions but that doesn’t give them the right to harrass others in a public place. There is a clear alternative available.

And for many people it’s not so easy to just laugh it off or ignore them. Some of these beggars can be quite persistent and intimidating. By behaving the way they are, they do harm other’s ability to peacefully go about their business. They aren’t necessarily passively begging.

And as for the Chuggers, they literally have no excuse. They are preying on people’s conscience to give money to charities when in reality a large proportion of that money is going into their own pockets or their employers. They should be outright banned.

No, actually, I just don’t agree with you. Some people are unemployable because of their past, their habits, their lack of experience, appearance and education or their mental health issues. There may be many circumstances where for some reason or other their benefit is not enough to sustain them or they cannot wait to be housed. I do not care about why they are not receiving benefits, if they are or why they’re asking for money – I just think that people need to be more compassionate.

mickando69 6:13 pm 21 Feb 15

I don’t have a problem with the buskers a Dickson. They’re not “begging” for money. Most of them are pretty good. The beggars, that’s something else. 2 years ago, a Saturday @ 11.30am I walked past one of these milk crate sitters outside Woolworths. An individual who I had told politely on previous occasions not to ask me for money or smokes. He’d seen me use the ATM, and as walked past him perched on his crate with his cap on the ground he said, “You must have some money for me?”. My response was not so polite, out of frustration I guess. I continued walking back to my car, unaware that he was following me. Like all “coward punches”, I never saw it coming. I woke up in the Macca’s car park, glasses smashed, jaw throbbing, lips cut. Witnesses say he used his right elbow to smash me from behind, hitting the left side of my jaw and knocking me out cold, then kicking me in the back while I was out, before running away. He’s still there 2 years later, begging, like it never happened. Guess I should just “get over it?”

Bennop 3:50 pm 20 Feb 15

chewy14 said :

Bennop said :

I think you are missing the point. My understnading is that a large percentage of beggars, homeless, and long term welfare recipients experience mental health issues that significantly effect their ability to lift themselves out of their financially vulnerable situation, or use what resources they do receive in a “smart ” manner. Just because a saftey net exiss does not mean it is useful for everyone.

As for chuggers, if they didnt work for the charities, i suspect they wouldnt use them. And is it *really* that hard to keep walking, or walk around them?

Yes, some of these beggars might have mental health or other issues and as I said the welfare safety net is not perfect. This doesn’t excuse their behaviour or make it acceptable in any way. Supplementing their income by harrassing others shouldn’t be encouraged just because they waste their money or aren’t able to access the services available. That’s an argument for making the services more accessible.

And some of the chuggers don’t just sit there as you walk past, they deliberately get in your way and refuse to take no for an answer. And that’s coming from a man who isn’t small in stature, I’d hate to see what they do to other people who are more vunerable. They prey on people to line their own pockets rather than to raise money for charities. As I said before, they should be banned.

Well, on both those issues I guess it is an isue of what either of us consider permissable and/or tolerable. I consider them both tolerable. Bigger things matter.

chewy14 1:12 pm 20 Feb 15

Bennop said :

I think you are missing the point. My understnading is that a large percentage of beggars, homeless, and long term welfare recipients experience mental health issues that significantly effect their ability to lift themselves out of their financially vulnerable situation, or use what resources they do receive in a “smart ” manner. Just because a saftey net exiss does not mean it is useful for everyone.

As for chuggers, if they didnt work for the charities, i suspect they wouldnt use them. And is it *really* that hard to keep walking, or walk around them?

Yes, some of these beggars might have mental health or other issues and as I said the welfare safety net is not perfect. This doesn’t excuse their behaviour or make it acceptable in any way. Supplementing their income by harrassing others shouldn’t be encouraged just because they waste their money or aren’t able to access the services available. That’s an argument for making the services more accessible.

And some of the chuggers don’t just sit there as you walk past, they deliberately get in your way and refuse to take no for an answer. And that’s coming from a man who isn’t small in stature, I’d hate to see what they do to other people who are more vunerable. They prey on people to line their own pockets rather than to raise money for charities. As I said before, they should be banned.

Bennop 12:41 pm 20 Feb 15

chewy14 said :

RDS said :

Thank you for writing this article.

It bothers me when I see people (even friends) complaining about buskers, or people who ask for money, donations or for you to sign up to charity groups. Some need to remember that if people had not stooped to a low point in their life and thought they had an alternative, they probably would not choose to sit outside in the sun, hot or cold each day and ask people for money over and over to be rejected, in some cases abused and given dirty looks. It would be humiliating and hard to deal with.

The way I see it is – if you want to and you have loose money to spare you can help out and if you don’t want to and don’t have time you can walk off. There is no point in degrading or complaining about people who aren’t harming anyone. Of course, some people like to complain about anyone and everything. I think it’s a disease and you have to wonder why it bothers them so much – is it because you’re a privileged, stressed out snob?

If someone is bothering you by asking for money or cigarettes and has done this on more than one occasion – why not laugh it off and tell them that they asked you five minutes ago?

It is a business owner or manager’s responsibility to politely ask them to busk a bit further away.

If you are being harassed by a junkie then you can notify security or notify police. Do not engage with them at all even to say no or make eye contact. You don’t need to.

You’re missing the point.

In Australia we have a significant social safety net that will help anyone who needs it. It may not be ideal but there is definitely help available for those who want it. These people may have had a hard life or made bad decisions but that doesn’t give them the right to harrass others in a public place. There is a clear alternative available.

And for many people it’s not so easy to just laugh it off or ignore them. Some of these beggars can be quite persistent and intimidating. By behaving the way they are, they do harm other’s ability to peacefully go about their business. They aren’t necessarily passively begging.

And as for the Chuggers, they literally have no excuse. They are preying on people’s conscience to give money to charities when in reality a large proportion of that money is going into their own pockets or their employers. They should be outright banned.

I think you are missing the point. My understnading is that a large percentage of beggars, homeless, and long term welfare recipients experience mental health issues that significantly effect their ability to lift themselves out of their financially vulnerable situation, or use what resources they do receive in a “smart ” manner. Just because a saftey net exiss does not mean it is useful for everyone.

As for chuggers, if they didnt work for the charities, i suspect they wouldnt use them. And is it *really* that hard to keep walking, or walk around them?

chewy14 10:53 am 20 Feb 15

RDS said :

Thank you for writing this article.

It bothers me when I see people (even friends) complaining about buskers, or people who ask for money, donations or for you to sign up to charity groups. Some need to remember that if people had not stooped to a low point in their life and thought they had an alternative, they probably would not choose to sit outside in the sun, hot or cold each day and ask people for money over and over to be rejected, in some cases abused and given dirty looks. It would be humiliating and hard to deal with.

The way I see it is – if you want to and you have loose money to spare you can help out and if you don’t want to and don’t have time you can walk off. There is no point in degrading or complaining about people who aren’t harming anyone. Of course, some people like to complain about anyone and everything. I think it’s a disease and you have to wonder why it bothers them so much – is it because you’re a privileged, stressed out snob?

If someone is bothering you by asking for money or cigarettes and has done this on more than one occasion – why not laugh it off and tell them that they asked you five minutes ago?

It is a business owner or manager’s responsibility to politely ask them to busk a bit further away.

If you are being harassed by a junkie then you can notify security or notify police. Do not engage with them at all even to say no or make eye contact. You don’t need to.

You’re missing the point.

In Australia we have a significant social safety net that will help anyone who needs it. It may not be ideal but there is definitely help available for those who want it. These people may have had a hard life or made bad decisions but that doesn’t give them the right to harrass others in a public place. There is a clear alternative available.

And for many people it’s not so easy to just laugh it off or ignore them. Some of these beggars can be quite persistent and intimidating. By behaving the way they are, they do harm other’s ability to peacefully go about their business. They aren’t necessarily passively begging.

And as for the Chuggers, they literally have no excuse. They are preying on people’s conscience to give money to charities when in reality a large proportion of that money is going into their own pockets or their employers. They should be outright banned.

RDS 9:24 am 20 Feb 15

Thank you for writing this article.

It bothers me when I see people (even friends) complaining about buskers, or people who ask for money, donations or for you to sign up to charity groups. Some need to remember that if people had not stooped to a low point in their life and thought they had an alternative, they probably would not choose to sit outside in the sun, hot or cold each day and ask people for money over and over to be rejected, in some cases abused and given dirty looks. It would be humiliating and hard to deal with.

The way I see it is – if you want to and you have loose money to spare you can help out and if you don’t want to and don’t have time you can walk off. There is no point in degrading or complaining about people who aren’t harming anyone. Of course, some people like to complain about anyone and everything. I think it’s a disease and you have to wonder why it bothers them so much – is it because you’re a privileged, stressed out snob?

If someone is bothering you by asking for money or cigarettes and has done this on more than one occasion – why not laugh it off and tell them that they asked you five minutes ago?

It is a business owner or manager’s responsibility to politely ask them to busk a bit further away.

If you are being harassed by a junkie then you can notify security or notify police. Do not engage with them at all even to say no or make eye contact. You don’t need to.

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