"When the phone doesn't ring you will know that it's me".

It's a favourite Jimmy Buffett song and one I quote to mates when they stay off line for too long.

You never know what you are going to get when the phone does ring but my favourite phone call is the one I received from Barbara Hogg a matter of days ago, and since then it has started a koro and kuia quake, from our golden oldies wanting to help the homeless.

"We are downsizing our home as we face retirement, would you like some much-loved furniture for your homeless?" was the call recently.

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This past week we have had three of these kind calls and for us, desperately trying to fill empty homes with whanau and furniture, they are godsends.

One of the biggest challenges facing frontline services like ours is not just reconnecting the lost and the lonely and getting them a warrant of fitness to become a good tenant again, but its kick-starting them into a whare, with the basic essentials of a bed with blankets on it and a table to eat off.

The good news is that more and more we are finding people in the community who want to help, they just need to know how - and whether their random acts of kindness will effect change.

Across the Mamaku in Rotorua a similar call is being answered by a voluntary initiative led by Tiny Deane, Lara Northcroft and Wetini Mitai, who we are trying to tautoko so they too can connect with those who need it most.

"Hang on - help is on its way" - I sing silently when times are tough, as they are for many in our own backyard.

Help is on its way and it is coming from unexpected sources like the old and the right as much as it is from the young and the left.

In the current political climate of not knowing who has their hands on the purse-strings, the question I would like to ask all politicians is: "How much have you helped the homeless from your own pocket?"

Banging the drum of deprivation on the campaign trail is admirable, but being a politician does not make you duty-free, especially when it comes to giving from your own pocket.

The same goes for our own who profess to be all about whanau.

I know of many Maori inside and outside of politics who blame the right and the rich for the poverty of their own people. Some are on a dozen boards or more yet when it comes to a koha for the pohara (poor), their pockets are padlocked.

What I do know is homelessness has been around for as long as - if not longer than -
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, and only recently has it become a "sexy" vote-winning subject.

To invoice poverty back to the most recent Government - or pay if forward it to the next -
is naive and not the panacea to fix the problem.

Because homelessness has been outed, we are facing up to it and recognising it for what it is, the disconnection of family and whanau from their own, as much as a dereliction of duty from our elected members.

On the front line where we work we don't see whanau who are connected to their hapu, marae, iwi, sports clubs and churches.

Why? Because they have support systems in place and a sense of belonging.

Mostly we see Maori and most of them are not from local iwi, hence they are isolated from the very whanau who can help them reconnect.

This is where Whanau Ora should be kicking in.

If Winston has a priority on his plate of bottom-line promises, surely it is homelessness, and for this plate to be serving up the best for its people, Whanau Ora with its $100 million-plus budget needs to be far more effective.

Some would say I am biting the hand that feeds our homeless, but for me there has been a total no-show, in my view, from the many promises made from Whanau Ora and we need to be on their radar of responsibility.

That's the kicker. When it comes to the giving to keep us going, the kindness is coming from the right not the left inside the political whare and outside.

Come what may, in five more sleeps when Winston approaches the crossroads and decides to make a right or left-hand turn, he cannot do a U-turn on the homeless of Aotearoa.

What he can do is ensure the troops at the front line - who fight the battle of homelessness day in and day out - take priority before the bureaucrats in the boardrooms and back offices.

tommykapai@gmail.com