Homeless in Wellington

Occupy protest highlights plight of people with no place to live

By Susan Blaikie

In central Wellington, the police and Wellington City Council security officers have moved in on the Occupiers in Civic Square to remove them — and it’s been revealed that many had no other home to go to.

Of the people who were still there when the removal began, around 17 of them said they were homeless.

Putting aside briefly the right or wrongness of the protest for a moment, there now remains the question of what will happen to the 17 who have no home to go to.

Homelessness remains a long-standing and unresolved topic in Greater Wellington that is often unspoken of until something dramatic happens; such as the death of Ben Hana recently or the Wellington Occupation itself.

Perhaps the most common misconception I hear is that homeless people choose to be homeless; a lifestyle choice as it were.  There is a truth that a tiny percentage, and I mean tiny, choose to sleep rough such as Ben Hana.  Even then these decisions are rarely made out of well-being. 

Little quality housing available

It’s unbelievably difficult to find affordable, quality housing for people on low incomes.

Downtown Community Ministries in Wellington City work with around 150 people each quarter who experience homelessness; whether it be people in Women’s Refuge, night shelters, boarding houses, couch surfing or living rough on the street.

Of the 150, around 20% find accommodation within the quarter, and the rest either go on to waiting lists with Council/Government housing and the others remain in the same state.

Add difficulties with alcohol or drug addiction, criminal conviction history, mental health, or anti-social behaviour and it gets harder again.

‘Wet House’ needed…now

If Wellington had a Wet House (supported housing for chronic alcoholics that has been talked about for around six years now), Ben and , Sam Smith,another not so well-known homeless man who passed away just a few weeks prior, may not have died.

That’s why we need, despite all the inconvenience and complexities with it, the voice of Occupy.

Social agencies and the homeless themselves have been calling out for more affordable permanent accommodation, and it simply keeps falling on deaf ears.

If homelessness gets the attention, finally, of public and public figures through the occupation protest, I would choose that a hundreds times over another premature and preventable death.

The measure of our society, as stated countless times throughout the centuries, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members; including those whom we’d rather not have to see or deal with. 

Our homeless, our most vulnerable, deserve the right to be called and treated as our neighbours.

 

 

If I was unemployed or in a situation where I could ‘camp in’ a protest for several months I’m sure I wouldn’t be paying rent as well, so of coarse the people evicted from the occupy protest wouldn’t have places to live.
Lets face it the people who do have a roof over their heads and full time work are not the ones who (as a rule) go out of their way to protest anything, apart from maybe the occasional summer walk (march) around town, the fact is we have it way to good in New Zealand, we are not going to see social change without a lot more people suffering a hell of a lot more than now. It will take unemployment rates larger than Spain (5 million currently out of work) before the Kiwi apathetic masses get remotely upset, it is only the ones at the bottom of the heap at the moment that are waking up, so the more at the bottom the sooner we might see some a fairer distribution of the nations resources, we will have to go backwards before there is any chance of moving forward, but then we hit Peak Oil (ops) which means the end of distributing everything.
Like I’ve said a hundred times we will be tripping over cadavers in the streets, and still our so called leaders will be going on about ‘a brighter future’ like the bunch of clowns we deserve.