Out on the street with a message

By Louis Houlbrooke

Familiar figure hasn’t let homelessness stop him taking his causes to Auckland drivers

Wayne Young, 61, says he's learned a lot about survival in his years of living in a car.
Wayne Young, 61, says he's learned a lot about survival in his years of living in a car.

Wayne Young's white hard hat, boldly painted sign and friendly wave are a familiar sight to commuters along Auckland's Tamaki Drive. But it's not immediately obvious that the clean-shaven, neatly dressed man is homeless.

"I live in my car," said Mr Young. "Just keeping myself clean, tidy and presentable is a hard act.

"If you look rough or like a crook, a policeman will surely come along."

The 61-year-old became a casualty of the leaky homes crisis after an apartment he bought in 1999 suffered water damage. When he disputed the repair bill, legal costs forced him into bankruptcy.

For Mr Young, who's been homeless for 13 years, sign-waving isn't just a way of passing the time. "I got the message from passers-by that 'you're a bum, get a job'. So I said to myself, 'blow it, I'm going to concentrate and say a few things'."

And say a few things he does. The two-time mayoral candidate uses his signs to address topics in the headlines, a common target being Auckland's leadership.

"Whether we wanted it or not, the Super City was wham, bam, crash."

But Mr Young is reluctant to blame any particular group for his homelessness, instead focusing on his concern for others in similar circumstances.

"I've learned a lot about being homeless, how to fossick in jumbo bins for extra food, how to supplement your income, do odd jobs and try to pay for things like warrants of fitness. I never would have believed the struggle there is in being poor and oppressed."

Mr Young, who now survives on a sickness benefit, has lost contact with much of his family for pursuing what he admits may be an impossible cause. But despite his situation, he still gains satisfaction from the positive reaction of passing drivers - and he knows them all.

"That's unusual, he's a new punter!" he says as a grey car toots.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 21 Dec 2014 07:48:10 Processing Time: 1974ms