Tommy Wilson: Homeless get a helping hand

By Tommy Wilson

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Tommy Wilson from Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services has been offered two buildings on The Strand rent-free for a year to accommodate homeless families. Photo/file
Tommy Wilson from Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services has been offered two buildings on The Strand rent-free for a year to accommodate homeless families. Photo/file

There was a bit of boohoo juice spilt on the sideline on Saturday, while watching my beloved blue and blacks kick Whakatane to touch on a picturesque day at Maramatanga park.

It had nothing to do with the game, although at times the boot of our first five-eighth Keegan Long definitely had the hand of God pretty close to his radar.

Read more:
The homeless problem's impact on our children
Tauranga's homeless problem at 'crisis point'

The lump in my throat came from a crackled call from a 92-year-old pensioner who has never owned a computer or a cellphone - but knew everything about the biblical scripture "A merry heart does good like a medicine".

My sideline lesson went something like this:

"I am a pensioner and my name is Pat and the $50 I am sending you is a large chunk of what I live on every week, but we all must start looking after those who don't have as much as we do, that's how the world needs to behave, so where do I send my cheque as I don't have a computer to give a little?"

Pat was answering the call put out last Friday to give a little for the homeless of Tauranga Moana.

This wasn't the first pensioner named Pat to help me. There is another beautiful being with the last name Page who has supported my mahi for the last decade, and who would clip my ears for even mentioning it. (Sorry, Pat).

Since we launched Whare Tauranga on Friday, as stage one of a three-stage plan to make Tauranga homeless-free by 2020 - with a blessing by tangata whenua and friends - there has been an outpouring of tautoko (support).

From the very young like 9-year-old Shay and his Omokoroa Point School mates who brought in a koha of $272.60 plus some keep-warm clothing, to the very old like the 92-year-young awhi-angel who taught me about the medicine of a merry heart.

One of my great lessons in life has been those who have the least seem to give the most, especially around the Maori communities I live and work amongst.

Too often the bone of blame is pointed at our elected leaders both local and down in Cake Tin country, where Warren and his Wailers must be also having a silent boo hoo as I was on Saturday, for entirely different reasons.

Too often we want to invoice the hardships of homelessness to someone or something else, so as to take it off our own personal radar of responsibility, and I totally get the whole poverty-induced "no work no pay, and then no mana because you can't feed your own family", which is behind what we are all saying no to. However, in this case there is a silver lining of hope sewn into the long dark cloud of a land without a whare for our whanau.

A merry heart does good like a medicine, and in giving we not only bring happiness to those who are homeless but we also become part of the solution and not the problem...
Tommy Wilson

It's about getting past the war stories of poverty that will drown us if we allow it, and facing forward to communities being resourced to take care of their own back yards.

It was kick-started by the koha (gift) by Tauranga Moana Trust and the whare they have given us, and on the very same day it was given a hongi - or a breath of life - by Minister Te Ururoa Flavell and his team at Te Puni Kokiri of $10,000.

This was immediately matched by the Adams family and less than 24 hours later I met with the Bougen whanau, who have always wanted to help but didn't know how they could effectively engage, knowing their koha would be put on the front line and not sit behind a desk delivering a lot of promises but very few merry hearts.

The most precious commodity about all of this kindness coming for Whare Tauranga is not the amount, but the map of the human heart in our own backyard, where political potae and iwi politics are left at the door of No7 The Strand, and the needs of those who matter most are being looked after.

Nobody consciously chooses to sleep rough in the back of a car down in Memorial Park.

Sadly, some of us get dealt a different set of cards in life and once in a blue moon a wild card or a "get out of jail card" comes along, in the form of a random act of kindness by someone we will most probably never meet.

And when this happens, our whanau get to sleep in a warm and safe whare for the first time in a long time.

A merry heart does good like a medicine, and in giving we not only bring happiness to those who are homeless but we also become part of the solution and not the problem, as my new 92-year-old "give a little" girlfriend showed me on Saturday.

If you would like to support Whare Tauranga you can go to our Give A Little page or drop your koha into Tauranga Moana Trust at No3 The Strand. We need a couple of carpenters for a few hours if you can help.

Want to Help?

* www.givealittle.co.nz/org/whare4whanau

- broblack@xtra.co.nz

- Tommy Wilson is a Tauranga author and columnist.

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