Us Kiwis are all about the can do attitude. We’re always looking at less hui and more do-ey. So the recent NZ Herald article about dancer Rodney Bell, although inspiring, comes as no surprise. Rodney overcame homelessness thousands of miles away from home in San Francisco, using his innate qualities of perseverance and passion.
It’s easy to see that kind of resilience and tenacity here in Auckland, too. Just look around you. See how people overcome adversity in the city they call home, when they are caught up in a system that fails to look after them. Here’s Eruera’s story of a Lifewise Support Worker who knows first-hand how difficult it is, and now gives others a hand up. And here’s an article about Rangi, who faced some tough times but picked himself up and is now helping others who are facing similar challenges.
People sort out a lot for themselves. Let’s not assume they are helpless. In fact, many homeless people do manage to house themselves, sometimes with little to no help from agencies like Lifewise. In this way, they gain valuable knowledge of what works and what does not. They have a lot to share about their lived experience, and their insight is invaluable for projects such as Housing First. By becoming project members who know what it’s like to be homeless, they are best placed to help develop peer support – a crucial factor in helping to stay off the street and maintain tenancy.
People with lived experience of homelessness have helped with another recently launched project – awhina.net.nz. Their inputs are crucial for designing websites like awhina.net.nz to make them more useful to anyone who is experiencing homelessness. Āwhina – the te reo Māori word for helper – is truly by the people, for the people. The website is easy to navigate, providing a one-stop-shop for information on services and facilities that people need in order to help themselves.
Along with Aucklanders who have experienced homelessness, frontline staff and organisations like Lifewise, Auckland City Mission, New Zealand Prostitutes Collective and Youthline, have contributed towards making Āwhina as complete and easy-to-use as possible. However, the website is under continuous development and is open to suggestions for any services, activities or information that may assist those in need.
Free internet access is already available at public libraries and also at Lifewise Merge Café. Here, patrons can jump online, browse awhina.net.nz while having a feed, and get one step closer to turning their lives around.