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Partnership set to boost Auckland’s response to homelessness

Partnership set to boost Auckland’s response to homelessness

A long-standing partnership between AUT University and Lifewise is set to boost Auckland’s approach to tackling homelessness. With 85 business and community leaders participating in this year’s Lifewise Big Sleepout on AUT’s city campus over 4-5 July, this is shaping up to be the biggest year yet. But as John McCarthy explains, “AUT does far more than simply host the event; they get right behind it, with the Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack once again leading a team of AUT staff taking part.”

“This year Lifewise and AUT want to achieve a first when it comes to tackling a social issue. We are working together to make the Big Sleepout an opportunity to innovate around homelessness. We are asking the 80 plus people gathered on the night to use their strategic minds in a think tank session that will help put an end to homelessness in our city. I cannot think of any other time when business, academia and the charitable sector have come together in this way to think creatively about a social issue.”

AUT University has 10 staff members braving the elements and sleeping out in the cold to raise awareness, with participants ranging from Dr Stephen Thorpe, Deputy Head of the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences to Kizito Essuman, Student Union President to Derek McCormack, AUT’s Vice Chancellor, sleeping rough for a third year. A full list of sleepers can be found visit the event website:, where you can view participants’ profiles and donate.

“Our challenge is to change the conversation and to come up with new and innovative ways to tackle homelessness. AUT supports this event because we believe in opportunity and that all New Zealanders should have an equal chance to be the best they can be” says Derek McCormack.

Auckland-based social development agency Lifewise knows that continuing to use old approaches to address homelessness won’t solve the issue. As general manager John McCarthy notes “Soup kitchens and night shelters have not solved homelessness so far, they simply alleviate the urgent need for food and shelter. If we’re serious about ending complex social issues like homelessness, we need fresh thinking and we absolutely need to involve people outside the social service sector. That’s where Lifewise’s partnership with AUT University really comes into its own.”

AUT University began working with Lifewise several years ago, as the organisation began to radically change its approach to working with homeless people. AUT’s city campus was a favourite spot for rough sleepers and the university wanted to adopt a positive approach to addressing the issue rather than a punitive one. Lifewise and AUT University’s shared philosophy around the issue of homelessness has led to improved outcomes for those who are homeless.

John McCarthy concludes “The partnership between Lifewise and AUT University works on so many levels. From research, to student and staff engagement and so much more, the openness of AUT University to support us to achieve our goals is something the whole team at Lifewise values highly.”

The think tank session will be facilitated by Running with Scissors; Andy Mitchell, who co-founded the agency, took part in the inaugural Lifewise Big Sleepout in 2010.

About the 2013 Lifewise Big Sleepout

When: Thursday 4 July to Friday 5 July (6.00pm to 7.30am)
Where: Hikuwai Plaza on AUT University’s city campus (an open-air plaza with some shelter)
What happens: Auckland business and community leaders raise sponsorship to spend one night ‘sleeping rough’ and experience a little of what it is like to be homeless. 100% of the funds raised will go to Lifewise’s work with homeless people in Auckland
Twitter: @bigsleepout and our official tag is #bigsleepout

About Lifewise:
• Lifewise is a gutsy and determined charity in pursuit of a socially just New Zealand.
• Lifewise stands up for people of all ages who need a hand in facing significant life challenges, providing timely and practical help wherever possible.
• Lifewise is not a traditional charity. We do not use hand-outs to solve problems. Instead we work passionately to turn lives around. To do this, we respond to the underlying causes of serious social issues and act to put things right as effectively as possible.
• Both independently and through our partnerships, we seek out permanent solutions, not band-aid quick fixes. And our actions bring about results.
• In short, Lifewise’s goal is to build a better, fairer New Zealand for all. A society where everyone counts, where everyone feels that they belong and where everyone has a contribution to make.

About AUT:
Auckland University of Technology is a university for the changing world, an increasingly powerful force for learning and discovery. A contemporary, connected and relevant study destination, it has differentiated itself through its commitment to widening university access and participation, and its engagement with business, industry and communities.

AUT, New Zealand’s fastest growing university, has an enrolment of around 19,000 equivalent full-time students across three campuses – City, North Shore and Manukau.

QS World Rankings ranks AUT in the top 500 (or top 5%) of the world’s universities.

The 2012 Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) report found that AUT outperformed all three benchmark groups on all measures of student engagement, including academic challenge, active learning, student and staff interactions, supportive learning environment, enriching educational experiences and work integrated learning.


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