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Tragic death reminds of realities of homeleness

For Immediate Release
Monday 18 August, 2008

Tragic death reminds us of the realities of homelessness

LIFEWISE, Auckland’s leading social service agency working with homeless people, believes that the death over the weekend of one of its clients highlights the stark realities of homelessness.

“This death has affected all at The LIFEWISE Centre – staff, volunteers and homeless people alike,” says John McCarthy, General Manager of Community Services at LIFEWISE. “Sadly it is just the latest death in a community which is highly vulnerable and at-risk.”

While the full circumstances are still being investigated by the Police, LIFEWISE can confirm that the deceased, a middle aged man, was homeless and that he accessed the organisation’s support services. LIFEWISE’s Support Workers had been working with him to access additional support.

“There are great risks associated with being homeless. It goes far beyond extreme isolation and loneliness. Homeless people are also at greater risk of victimisation. One of the great myths is that homeless people are only seen as the perpetrators of street crime, not the victims,” comments John McCarthy.
Homeless people are not included in the New Zealand Crime & Safety Surveys despite clear evidence highlighting that they are among the most vulnerable people in society. A recent study* found that, compared to the general public, homeless people are 13 times more likely to experience violence and 47 times more likely to be victims of theft.
A recent street count of people sleeping rough showed increasing numbers of homeless people in central Auckland. At the same time it highlighted available accommodation. “The available housing seems to be unsuitable for those who are isolated and lonely and who experience wide ranging social issues,” notes John McCarthy.

“It is essential that we make this accommodation more suitable for marginalised people by putting in place wrap around services and by strengthening inter-agency co-ordination,” continues McCarthy.

LIFEWISE is currently working in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), Housing New Zealand, Te Pune Kokiri and the Ministry of Justice to develop this type of response.

In the meantime LIFEWISE is concerned for the immediate issues arising from this man’s death. “His family and friends, and indeed the wider homeless community, are all in our prayers at this very sad time” says Rev John Murray, Executive Director of LIFEWISE. “Often in such circumstances we hold memorial services. It is a way for the wider homeless community to say their farewells. And if no family can be traced then we would make sure there was a funeral service. It is too soon to say what will happen on this occasion but the team at The LIFEWISE Centre is in constant contact with the homeless community and will continue to provide any support needed.”



Newburn and Rock, 2004 - Living in Fear: violence and victimisation in the lives of single homeless people. This study was commissioned by Crisis, a leading UK homelessness agency.

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