On July the 2nd, Auckland and Rotorua’s finest leaders will be made homeless for the night at the Lifewise Big Sleepout. The Big Sleepout shines a spotlight on the growing issue of homelessness in NZ -and raises the funds we desperately need to get vulnerable people off the streets and into permanent homes.

To give our rough sleepers some insight into what it’s like to call the streets your home, we asked Lifewise’s Merge Café customers to give us their top tips for sleeping rough in NZ.

Here is what the experts had to say:


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If you’re alone, make sure there are two ways out. Have a safe exit plan”

“Don’t sleep by yourself – sleep in a group or with another person”

“Make sure you keep all your valuables close”

“Sleep in an area where there are no drunk, stoned, or aggro people”

“Stay alert for any sounds”

“Keep something by you that you can use to protect yourself”

“If you are attacked, negotiate with them”


“Wrap your feet, and put a hat on your head”

“Have lots of warm blankets”

“If you can get one, feather-down sleeping bags are best”

“Wear lots of warm clothes”


“You’ll need lots of baby wipes”

“Get a hydrogen perodixe 3% bottle” – it takes care of bacteria, odours and fungus. You can use it on unwashed, smelly clothes, and to clean your arm pits and body”


“If you feel vulnerable, sleep in a lit-up area with CCTV”

“Try to find somewhere that is dry and clean”

“Sleep off the ground, like on a bench”

“Try to find a church archway to sleep in, and ask for help”


“Read a book”

“Have a pen and a notebook to write with”


And the best tip of them all:


EDITOR’S NOTE: As you can see, staying safe is a constant battle. Everyone who takes part in the Lifeiwse Big Sleepout is protected by a round the clock security team – so it’s just a small taste of the harsh realities of homelessness.


People struggling with homelessness are facing some long, cold nights ahead. Please donate today to the Lifewise Big Sleepout  – you will be giving a vulnerable person a home.

To learn more about the Lifewise Big Sleepout, please visit www.bigsleepout.org.nz.




  1. Excellent pragmatic advice…I particularly liked the peroxide 3%…now it may seem peculiar but , – as I was brought up in the bush , ( which is a lot safer than a city any day) – that most of the things I learnt for that environment were put together by a relative who served in the NZAF before the advent of the SAS. So the information was second to none.

    And that one learnt that one could live quite comfortably in the NZ bush if you knew how to procure food, make fire, shelter ,what to eat etc etc..

    And here…we have these sound practical sets of advice based upon those who have actually been there.

    And what really beggars description is that there is even a need for this sort of thing.

    It is the biggest indictment about the devolution of our once wealthy and prosperous country before the advent of neo liberalism was introduced that could ever be imagined.

    And the political leaders with vested interests that continue to defend this current atrocious state of affairs.

    • Homeless people probably don’t vote, so politicians don’t give a toss. (Some of them.) One the biggest plagues brought by neo-liberalism is rampant selfishness. It’s all about me. My wants. My needs. And sod the rest of the planet.

  2. This is a wake up call to what we have become through the demise of state housing, pointers on being homeless – safely. I am so angry and disgusted for the inhumane and cruel treatment of my fellow Kiwis, I don’t know what to say.

  3. It also helps to know where the safe loos are.

    The public toilets in this country are mostly disgusting and barely fit for purpose, even the ones maintained by the councils.

    (Absolute worst that I ever found was the one at Turangi that served the bus traffic. Eeewww.)

    Rotorua in July?! I’ll ask Hughey for a dry and windy night. That place has BRUTAL frosts!

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