What a ‘Typical’ Mission Client Looks like
This is What a ‘Typical’ Mission Client Looks like – And She Might Not Be Who You Think She is
Brianna* has been sitting on the footpath outside the Auckland City Mission since 4:30am this morning. She’s 35 years-old, a full-time caretaker for her severely disabled brother and is doing her best to raise two young nieces.
According to a survey of 105 people waiting in line outside the charity’s doors this week, Brianna is statistically ‘typical.’
Her family is the reason she’s here today, hoping to receive a modest food parcel, a gift for each of the two little girls and a $100 grant to help her make it through Christmas.
“People go past and judge, but they don’t always know what’s going on. I spend 85 per cent of my income on rent,” she explains.
She sounds exhausted; but then, so do most of the people in line alongside her – and for good reason.
The survey, conducted by Mission staff over six days and on top of regular individual assessments, shows that the “typical” person in line is a woman (83 per cent) aged between 20-40 years. She probably lives with at least 5 people and there’s a 26 per cent chance that she lives with 7 or more. Of those in her household, it’s highly likely (43%) that at least one is a child born to someone else whom she is helping to raise – either a niece/nephew, grandchild, cousin or young sibling.
Auckland City Missioner, Chris Farrelly, says these findings are particularly poignant following this week’s release of the 2016 Child Poverty Monitor results.
“The Mission’s own figures reflect many of the findings in this year’s Child Poverty Monitor,” says Mr Farrelly.
“For instance, the Monitor shows us that 16 per cent of kiwi children live in overcrowded homes. Our survey reflects this, with 48 per cent of respondents saying they live with 5 or more people. One woman we spoke with yesterday lives with 15 other people, while another couldn’t even say for sure because so many are coming and going on a given day in her household,” he says.
Overcrowding has serious health implications for children in particular, with higher rates of serious illnesses such as Meningococcal Disease and Rheumatic Fever found in households where at least one extra bedroom is needed in order to adequately house the inhabitants.
While the ‘typical’ person in line at the Mission might be classified as unemployed, even this isn’t as straightforward as some might think. It is likely that she is studying (18 per cent), serving as a full-time caregiver for an adult relative, retired or a new mum. Furthermore, if she is unemployed, she is likely to be actively seeking employment (72 per cent of respondents who are unemployed).
In fact, only 11 of the 105 people surveyed were both unemployed (excluding those who were retired, caretakers, new mums or disabled) and not actively looking for work.
“One of the questions we asked people was, if they could name just one thing that would significantly improve their life, what would it be?” says Mr Farrelly. “It comes as little surprise, given the information above, that the most popular answer by far was ‘a steady source of income,’ or simply, ‘a job’. These are people who want to improve things for their families and provide a better future for their children.”
“When you think about the amount of stress that many of these families are under, it’s amazing that they’re able to think about anything outside of basic survival,” says Mr Farrelly.
The final question on the Mission’s survey was whether there was a message the respondent would like to send out into the wider community. Brianna’s answer was repeated by many of the people in line with her.
“Merry Christmas,” she said.
Please donate to the Mission’s Christmas Appeal today at becomesomeonesangel.co.nz because 80 per cent of the Mission’s operating costs are funded by donations.
*Name has been changed to protect client privacy