End the Silence – STOP the Violence
Saying NO! One Backpacker hostels’ unique stand – to have guests agree to background checks as a condition to occupancy.
Backpackers also need to end the ‘conspiracy of silence’ that exists. Following a couple of recent and (un) – necessary Police call outs to deal with incidents of violent behavior from guests, has resulted in the decision to formalize in writing the verbal understanding of accepted behavior, this potentially controversial policy may not sit well with all. While many accommodation providers say ‘NO Kiwis’ – discrimination based on nationality alone may breach the Human Rights Commission. It is the ‘anti social, risky & illegal behaviors’ that is unwanted, regardless of which nationality is perpetrating any such behavior. The aim is to alter the ‘culture’ that exists to ’empower’ occupants to “End the Silence to Stop the Violence”. If management are unable to collect the information necessary with which to base and make informed decisions then unhealthy behavior is enabled, which can and will continue – until someone is hurt.
Te Puke Backpackers, has for a long time ‘screened’ guests, generally catering to young international ‘working holiday’ travelers 18 – 30 years. However in more recent times New Zealand has been experiencing a ‘housing crisis’, resulting in many people in need of short term emergency & temporary housing. In an attempt to help support a few people we have cautiously ‘relaxed’ our guest entry criteria, opened our doors and hearts to a few New Zealanders.
Our first was to help a 65 year old Maori man who had been sleeping rough on the streets in our small town of Te Puke, in middle of winter 2016. We knew this man from a few years previous a ‘bush man of sorts’. We gave him respite with clean safe housing for a few weeks, assisted him with WINZ, welfare, health, and helped him re-connect with his Whanau. We do not discriminate and while he did not ‘fit’ our general character of our hostel – he was peaceful and pleasant person who did not deserve to be living rough at 65 years of age, at the tail end of his working life, he was otherwise a clean proud man who deserved a chance to live peacefully..
More recently we again accepted another two female New Zealanders, who were in need of emergency housing, these women both over 30 years, appeared nice enough on check in and in first few days. One stayed a week and on final day I saw her drop a glass ‘handle or huge bear mug’ of liquid in the middle of the road right in front of our property, she stoop to pick up something then, moments later I heard another smashing of glass a little further down the road. When she returned I learned that she had also been harassing and using bullying tactics with a couple of guests, constantly drinking. I asked what was going on (she was clearly intoxicated) and I told her to go clean up the broken glass from the road as it was a hazard and not a good look. I decided not to renew her accommodation. Her actual feedback here which is publicly available for all to see… on our website is “Stink place waste the money – Tracy Maniapoto”
Many accommodation providers flatly refuse to take New Zealanders because they are ‘rude & nothing but trouble’. We pride ourselves in being non-judgmental and not discriminating to anyone. We do expect a basic level of respect, common courtesy, acceptable behavior is the expected norm while cohabiting in a shared environment. As a society
Over the years we have had the odd incident with international backpacking travelers as well and recently had to call the police to attend to a male guest who was behaving violently towards his female partner; heard yelling, lashing out, kicking property, slamming his fist onto table surfaces, appearing threatening, and obviously not in control of his behavior. His female partner was distressed and other guests were clearly concerned for her, and their own safety, unsure if she had been physically harmed, but his behavior was elevated & unpredictable. Police attended, the guests were cautioned, and informed about our strong protective laws around ‘domestic violence’, we were assured that such behavior was not going to be repeated, they were permitted to stay while agreeing with our conditions.
In the same week we had the 2nd New Zealand Maori woman who had been fine on checking in and could be lovely, but she was also behaving strange. Turned out she had been exhibiting psychotic behaviors, apparently was witnesses using and offering drugs to others, additional mental-health issues were suspected. However reports were sketchy and no-one was prepared to come forward with any ‘official’ reports for management to ‘take action’ on. This resulted in a lot of people moving out to other accommodations because of concerns for their own safety we were informed. Then this woman ‘king hit’ a young woman from Germany following an un-provoked verbal tyrant. Police attended and the Maori woman was immediately arrested, removed and trespassed. Such events should never ever occur. The German girl was attended to by paramedics, and she had nasty bruising to her eye and side of her face.
There is a problem with ‘under-reporting’ of events that can enable management to mitigate and avoid preventable harm such hazards. We have now formalized a policy to better enable the detecting, reporting, recording and monitoring of any ‘risky’, behaviors that can cause harm to others. This may be seen by many to be rather controversial as our policy informs guests that background checks are a condition of occupancy, unfortunate however we feel is necessary.
Accommodation providers may well be taking more of a lead from work environments where such policies are becoming commonplace. Since inception, without exception new guests have had no hesitation to agree and sign to accept the ‘conditions of occupancy’. The general consensus is that Te Puke Backpackers is a comfortable and safe accommodation environment. A number of occupants have expressed sadness that such ‘rules’ should be common sense – it should be ‘normal’ practice to treat the place and people with respect.