Beyond the Beehive: Homelessness

You came out to live on
the streets when you were 18. Yeah.
Why did you stay? Oh, because I loved the atmosphere. This might sound like a stupid question, but do you want to live on the street? I would not mind a beautiful house and
all that sort of stuff. It’s just that I’ve
adapted to this atmosphere. This is how I am. More than 41,000 people in
New Zealand are now homeless and about half live right
here in our biggest city. At the Auckland City
Mission, record numbers of food parcels are being
delivered every month. We’re about to meet its chief
executive, Chris Farrelly, and I’m keen to ask him if he thinks the homelessness crisis is a
problem that can be solved. I have seen some stuff here that I never thought I’d
ever see in New Zealand. So I go home really troubled. Most people drive by here,
they see the mission, they see queues, they see this, but they don’t see
what’s happening inside. It’s that everybody that
we are working with, there’s been serious trauma in their lives somewhere along the line. In the morning there’d
be up to 100 people here for breakfast, and tonight there’ll be about 100 people here for dinner. During the day it’s a crisis centre. So the doorway we just walked through, every single day of the
year it’s open – 365 days. And people with all sorts of
needs come through that door. About 70,000 people came
through in the course of the year, usually in crisis or in some
form of desperate need. There are 400 people at our medical centre who have no address except here. These food parcels are packed up at our distribution centre
and on a daily basis distributed to food
banks all over Auckland. This one you’re seeing now is for a family of four for four days. Some are homeless, some are
working poor, some have homes. In order to keep their homes
they have no money to buy food. Tutors come in here. Art, carving, sculpture. And also this is a sacred place. Here on the wall you’ll
see a number of pictures of people who have passed away recently. Sadly among these people
there’s a number of people who have died on our streets. The current coalition
government has said every New Zealander should
be able to live in dignity. It’s committed $100 million to solving the homelessness crisis. Is this just a pipe dream,
or is this actually possible? I believe it will
take many, many years and it will go much longer than
the term of this government or future governments. This has not just happened in
the last two or three years. It’s been a system breakdown
over many, many, many years, because we’ve got two
things at the moment: We’ve got the current group
of people who are homeless, which is large, then
we’ve got another group who potentially will be homeless, unless something way upstream
is done to prevent that. The current government
has committed itself to a national strategy
to end homelessness, now that’s very brave to do that. This will take some years. It will take more than $100 million and the programmes we have at the moment. The good news is we have
started, we’re on the journey, and I mean, that has to be applauded. Ken began
sleeping on Auckland streets when he was 18. He’s since struggled with health problems and alcohol addiction. I have to go home. My cousin wants me to go back
to Kaitaia and stay up there. Do some fishing. Because I know how to fish. What might need to happen for you to go up there? Does your cousin say ‘stop drinking?’ Yeah, you’re not wrong there. I have to stop drinking
because I’ve got liver and kidney problems and
I’ve got pancreatitis. And that’s no excuse. That’s something a man on the street shouldn’t be doing – drinking his heart out as I am. Yeah. It sucks, do you know what I’m saying? Ken often visits
the City Mission for help with his health problems,
and he could benefit from the $17 million the government is putting into the mission’s
expansion and redevelopment. That’s on top of $27 million from the previous government. This is what we’re
calling it Home Ground. It’s the new Auckland
City Mission building, which basically is going
to be our current services but much larger, so that’s the health centre, detox centre, crisis care, food, but included in this will
be a large accommodation. There will be 80 units in this building. New Zealanders do not want
homelessness to be the norm in our community. What we pick up is a
growing degree of concern, compassion, anger, anxiety
about this current situation that does also give me hope. If the community as a
whole becomes used to this, becomes numb to this,
becomes accepting of this, then we are in deep trouble.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *