Updated: Jul 23
A moving letter from my QS friend, Peter Arnold, about his contribution to the Auckland City Mission.
I am running the Auckland Marathon on 28th October to raise money for the Auckland City Mission and am relying on my unique Geordie wit and charm to try and persuade you to stick your generous hands in your pockets and give me some of your dosh. Or if not, you could maybe just stick your hand in someone else’s pocket when they aren’t looking and donate their money instead?
The Mission is a great organisation that doesn’t just cater for the homeless, drug addicts and alcoholics. It offers vital and basic help to anyone who needs it. Of course, not all of the users fall into those categories. In the UK, the use of food banks has, sadly, become the norm rather than the exception for a lot of families who live on the breadline. Some simply have to choose between heating the house in winter or feeding the family – and heating the house in winter in the UK is pretty important, so more and more people are reluctantly choosing to use food banks.
But the Mission isn’t just a food bank. For some it is, and having two meals a day and a hot or cold drink provided, is probably the best they are going to get, and they probably aren’t looking for much beyond that. It has its regulars and I’m sure some of you will have seen the pitiful set up outside of the Mission on Hobson Street that some of them call home. There are people who you just know are probably never going to get out of the vicious cycle they are stuck in. They are relatively easy to spot and normally drunk or high – the real, for want of a better word, ‘dregs’. You may be forgiven for thinking they all deserve it, that they are just too lazy to get off their arses and do something about it, that they have chosen this way of life and are happy with their choice. Maybe some of them do deserve it, and have made their choices, but most, if not all of their faces, rarely convince me that they are happy with it.
Above the current Building: “it is a place where the workers and volunteers actually ‘engage’ with the people – a lot of whom simply want to be acknowledged and accepted as humans as opposed to feeling ‘invisible’ on the street”
They all have their own story. It’s amazing listening to some of them. For some, they are in the situation they are because of mental health issues, family breakdown, divorce, the death of someone close, lost their job due to redundancy and can no longer afford to pay the mortgage or rent. It’s easy to see that some people are clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable being there and you get the sense that they are only there because they are in dire straits and it’s a last resort. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve met and served at the Mission who I’ve seen working on some of the building sites I’ve worked on since arriving in New Zealand. And the current site I am working on is no exception – there is one gentleman in question who always takes great pride in cleaning up at the Mission after a drop in session. He also works 50 hours a week on the site and said he would gladly work more, but hours have had to be capped due to Health and Safety - so I was really quite surprised when I heard he was homeless – but I’m sure he has his story as well. I met another lad at the Mission called Chaz, who immediately struck me as someone who was keen to get away from having to use its services. I noticed that he wasn’t turning up any more, and hoped that I wouldn’t receive the all too often and inevitable news that he had been found dead somewhere, as I’ve sadly heard about quite a number of other previous regular service users. Anyway, I have seen Chaz on the last site I was working on, doing the bin runs. The Mission had helped him kick his drug habit, found him some accommodation and helped him apply for a job at the Labour Exchange, enabling him to live independently.
Sketch of proposed new Auckland City Mission. A plan to help the homeless, and others in need in Auckland.
Without discriminating, the Mission provides frontline services for those who find themselves, for whatever reason, without a home or in need. They offer shelter when they can, food and drink, clothing, sleeping bags and tents for those who unfortunately do find themselves on the street, toiletries for those who care enough about themselves to have a wash (and believe me, some of the ‘sweet fragrances’ that drift around the Mission in the middle of summer can test your olfactory senses to their limit), assistance in applying for accommodation, advice and guidance on gaining employment, detox and counselling for alcohol and drug abuse and a resident doctor for those who need urgent attention but can’t afford to pay for it. Just as important, it is a place where the workers and volunteers actually ‘engage’ with the people – a lot of whom simply want to be acknowledged and accepted as humans as opposed to feeling ‘invisible’ on the street – a word a lot of the them use to describe how they feel.
So, it’s not just a place for those we think may ‘deserve it’.
So, I’ve pledged to try and raise $1,500 and although I may well not make my target, I’ll be happy knowing I’ve tried my best – so any donation, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated. If you are happy to donate, click on the link below – I even wrote a little poem about it on my page so at the very least have a look at that!
Cheers, Geordie Pete. Aka, Peter Arnold Senior QS