Roughing it so others don’t have to
Five community groups working with homeless Wellingtonians are teaming up to raise funds for their work and raise awareness of the plight of some of the city’s most fragile and isolated citizens.
Wellington’s 14 Hours Homeless event on October 9 will see teams of three or more spending the night on cardboard or couches under the stars or sleeping in cars. The aim is to raise money for five organisations, working with the homeless and collaborating under Wellington City Council’s Te Mahana initiative, aimed at eradicating homelessness in the city.
Wellington’s acting Mayor, Justin Lester, says it’s the first time DCM (Downtown Community Ministry), the Soup Kitchen, Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust, Wellington Night Shelter and The Salvation Army have come together for fundraising, although the five are connected through their social service work.
“It is fantastic to see these agencies working together to raise awareness and funds in support of Te Mahana in addition to their day-to-day social service work” says Cr Lester.
The organisations work with hundreds of people each year who are sleeping rough, staying in overnight emergency accommodation, temporarily with family or friends or living in dilapidated or unsafe dwellings.
Just as concerning is the large number of people who are at risk of homelessness.
“Many individuals and families the agencies are working with are living on the verge of homelessness through high rents versus low incomes, racking up debt just to get by, relationship breakdowns and domestic violence, poor mental and physical health and a myriad of other causes,” says Jenny.
“Without a stable home a person’s physical and mental health and their spirit declines greatly and they are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to getting an income and re-establishing themselves.”
According to a Ministry of Health report using 2013 census data, more than 35,000 people in greater Wellington are living in crowded conditions. These people are vulnerable to eviction.
The fundraising projects as part of 14 Hour Homeless are:
• Each year DCM works with some 850 people, most of whom meet the New Zealand definition of homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. At DCM’s Te Hāpai service, people have opportunities to participate in recovery-focused programmes, and are supported to find housing, manage their money, access health services, and connect with whānau and their cultural roots.
• Wellington Night Shelter provides emergency accommodation and practical and social services to around 280 men a year, assisting some 60 into permanent accommodation. Preparing a homeless person to adapt to their new life can be expensive. Wellington Night Shelter will be raising funds for this work.
• The Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust specialises in providing temporary accommodation for women and supporting many into stable accommodation. The trust works with women ranging from mothers wanting to build stable and independent lives for their families through to elderly women.
• The Soup Kitchen, founded by the Sisters of Compassion, has been serving Wellington’s poor for 113 years. The Soup Kitchen seeks to provide support to people in need, which includes those who are marginalised through such things as mental health issues, addictions, homelessness and poverty. The Soup Kitchen will be raising funds to support guest participation in the wider community and engagement in meaningful and productive activities. These activities include a community garden, computer hub that provides internet access and IT training for clients and cooking lessons.
• The Salvation Army will be fundraising for its two emergency homes for homeless youth aged from 15 years – the only service of its kind in the region. Many young clients are estranged from their families, some are struggling with addiction or dealing with the after-effects of abuse or bullying. To help guide these young people to employment and long-term independent living, they are assisted with budgeting and household management skills and developing job search and interview skills. The homes receive no government funding.
Those wishing to take part in the event or donate to it can find more information at http://14hourshomeless.org.nz/event/wgtn
14 Hours Homeless is run to support and raise awareness of World Homeless Day which occurs on 10 October every year. Read more about World Homeless Day here http://www.worldhomelessday.org/