TODAY |

1 NEWS investigates homelessness in New Zealand: The faces of New Zealand's homeless

Thousands of New Zealanders are classed as being homeless and there are multiple reasons why they have found themselves without a place to call home.

To understand some of the reasons 1 NEWS reporter Ryan Boswell spoke to three men who are or were homeless about why they ended up living rough.

Tomorrow, we look at the definition of homelessness, and just how many are without a place to call home in New Zealand. 

Rob's story 

When Rob was young he got into a lot of trouble with the law.

“I was 16, young dumb and stupid. Just wanted to drink, wanted to party, do all the young things."

The partying and constantly being in and out of court and losing contact with his family and support networks started to take a toll on Rob, who struggled to find work.

"One silly mistake" later he was on the streets of Christchurch sleeping in parks where it was quiet and he could be left alone.

After finding himself without a place to settle, Rob found work in a pub and then a fish processing plant, where he could get free food.

“Getting into those jobs where there’s kai around helped. It was a night shift job so keeping warm at night working and coming home during the day when the sun's out, at least I can stay warm."

A couple of years passed and Rob moved north to Hawke's Bay for the fruit picking season. From there he went to Northland to help process wood, before making his way to Auckland.

Aged 32, Rob was living on the streets of New Zealand's largest city.

“I arrived on the streets at Victoria Park just after 11pm.

“It was pretty scary for the first couple of weeks. I didn’t look to connect, just tried to find my own safety first."

It was another man living on the streets who reached out to Rob and told him about getting meals at the City Mission.

Then others took Rob under their wing and showed him “all the free food was in Auckland without having to go to the Mission.”

During this time Rob was trying to get a home and spent six months phoning Housing New Zealand daily asking for a home, before he was given accommodation five years ago.

Now Rob is giving back to the community he was once a part of on the streets, working for the Government’s Housing First programme.

The progamme puts those who are chronically homeless into permanent accommodation and then provides wrap-around support services.

“It’s good to be that reflection for the whānau. It's a long journey but everyone can conquer it - I’m still standing here today laughing it up."

Charlie's story

Over six months ago, Charlie was forced to move out of his flea-infested home due to illness.

“I turned away from my family, my friends, my work, my job completely."

He chose to move into his car and park up in Onehunga, Auckland, surrounded by others who were also sleeping rough.

“When my family found me they didn’t recognise me. I'd grown a beard, which is something I'd never done.

“I was just like I don’t care what people think of me or what I look like. They can call me any names … I don’t care anymore, I sort of gave up on life.”

Charlie's living situation in his car took a turn for the worse when he was dragged from his car in the middle of the night and beaten by a group of teenagers.

It was to Auckland Action Against Poverty that Charlie turned following the event for help, and through the charity he received trauma counselling on a daily basis for a month.

He is currently staying in a motel as part of the Government’s emergency accommodation.

“I’m coming back to life, living life, making more goals. But there is one main goal for me and that is WINZ (Work and Income) housing,” he said.

Charlie is now in full time employment working for a trucking company and he said he wants to help others living rough.

“They don’t belong there,” he said.

Clinton's story

Clinton ran away from home when he was just 13 and never went back.

Now 40, he has been homeless off-and-on for most of his life because he never wanted to go back to his “dysfunctional family”.

“My mother said ‘if you don’t abide by these rules get out’, so I thought I was the man and I left.”

The first couple of days on the street were spent partying, but the reality started to kick in when he had nowhere to shower or wash his clothes.

Shelter came from clothing bins, bridges, electricity boxes and even under balconies, while food came from rubbish bins, the City Mission and takeaway shops.

“Selling myself, I was a bit better off than other people so I could buy better food or pizzas, go to McDonald's,” he said.

To survive Clinton “ended up selling my body to fund my alcohol and drug habit”.

Drug addiction continues to be a battle for Clinton.

“I went from drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana to putting a needle in my arm. Trips, LSD, magic mushrooms, pills and methamphetamine.”

Clinton finally reached out for help through the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, where they put him in touch with the Government’s Housing First programme.

It provides permanent accommodation to those who have been chronically homeless for at least a year or to those who have been in and out of accommodation for at least three years.

Clinton is now living in a one bedroom apartment in Auckland’s CBD, after a “month long application process”.

He’s still getting used to living with power and a television but feels “very blessed to be housed and I love it”.

“I want to say to anyone out there who is homeless to go to Auckland City Mission and say that you want to be on the Housing First list and if you fit the criteria, which most of you will, they will house you."

1 NEWS reporter Ryan Boswell spoke to three men who are or were homeless about the reason they became homeless. Source: 1 NEWS