The Homeless: They’re not just statistics

Article sponsored by Contributed by Rupeni Vatubuli, NewsRoom_Plus Homelessness is witnessed on an everyday basis. We cannot help but sympathise for those who are less fortunate as we walk past.

There are many factors that could lead up to someone being homeless whether it’s caused by a job loss, family dispute, physical disabilities or even untreated mental illnesses. Whatever the reason may be, it’s likely that in the course of our lives we will know of someone who has been on the verge of being homeless, if not in a full state of being homeless. Truth be told, “homelessness” could hit us at any age or stage in life with sudden unexpected turn of events. What are the feelings that immediately speak of being homeless? The feeling of being Alone… Stranded… Hungry… Sleep deprived… Dirty… Too proud to beg… Helpless… Invisible… Worthless… And just when you think things could not get any worse, you get picked on by people who seem intent on denigrating your state of living further, as a source of amusement for them even … You try to scream but no one else hears you, and why would people bother? After all, you’re an eyesore to society…. These are elements of a a story I can relate too… because I lived it, albeit briefly, as a rough sleeping teenager. I remember feeling very much ALIVE in the head, but as far as society was concerned I was pretty much DEAD. The Hard Times report released last month by The  Salvation Army has captured those tensions and is well worth turning to for an explanation of an issue that often goes under reported. As defined by Statistics New Zealand, homelessness encompasses the living situations where people with no other option to acquire safe and secure housing are without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodation with a household or living in uninhabitable housing, while rough sleeping refers to those who are homeless and without shelter, and is the most extreme and obvious form of homelessness. Using Auckland as an example, the report states the alarming increase of rough sleepers in recent years. A recent City Mission report recorded 69 rough sleepers in 2013 which later increased to 147 in 2014. The count in 2014 is double the average yearly number over the past 10 years. Some may say “So? it’s not my fault that they’re too lazy…Homelessness is faced worldwide…there are organisations out there to help them, you’re repeating figures that I already know!” True, all true…but the purpose of the Hard Times report is to not only give you yearly figures but a face to each headcount of those who are homeless. The report captures this by representing the response of nineteen people who are sleeping rough in West Auckland. From sleeping in cars, parks, under bridges, under buildings, tents and so on. The participants explained the length of time in which they slept on the same spot. Where most answered spending “Over a month and less than an year”, one participant admitted sleeping in the same spot for more than 10 years. In terms of income, Most survive on Sickness benefits or Invalid benefits however almost all of the participants reported that the main source of income they received was a benefit from Work and Income. As for health and safety, 14 were identified as having physical or mental health issues, while on other hand of safety 12 of the participants reported that they had no concerns about their safety. A profile that especially caught my attention was of a man who has been living in his van for the past nine months. Relationship problems were a major contributor to his current living state. He is a father who is willing to work so his kids can have a home to stay in when they visit him. The feeling of not having things go your way is something we should all be able to identify with, along with trying to meet ends meet with the hope it will get better one day. I know I do and reading Hard Times really brought that home. –]]>