Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Survivor joins rough sleepers for night

Chanelle Haffenden says a traumatic childhood taught her to take care of herself. Photo / Greg Bowker
Chanelle Haffenden says a traumatic childhood taught her to take care of herself. Photo / Greg Bowker

A young woman who has slept rough on Auckland's streets will join 102 business and political leaders in this year's "Big Sleepout" fundraiser for Lifewise homeless services.

Chanelle Haffenden, 22, slept on the streets last year after a tough childhood that began with her mother being regularly bashed by her partner and ended in teenage years as a stripper and prostitute.

In between, she was passed between her mother, caregivers and youth welfare homes. Through it all, she learned to look after herself.

"You can be like, 'I'm going to sit here and pity myself', or you can be, 'This did happen but I can heal myself and at the same time speak out for other people'," she said.

She was medicated for anger problems, drank heavily and eventually developed psychotic symptoms.

"I had health anxiety from quite young," she said.

"I remember someone throwing a ball in my face and I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm dying'. Over the years the anxiety started to get worse."

She had spells in a psychiatric unit, felt rejected by her family, and stayed with friends until there was nowhere else to go except the streets.

She finally got a job with Nice Blocks icecreams in February by standing on the street with a sign saying, "Please give me a job".

The Big Sleepout is tomorrow night and aims to beat the $152,000 raised by last year's event.

www.bigsleepout.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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