Big turnout for Mangere 'sleeping in cars' event

By Solbin Kang, NZ Herald staff

Setima Autagavaia, 4, in the back of his family vehicle for Park Up for Homes in Mangere Town Centre car park. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Setima Autagavaia, 4, in the back of his family vehicle for Park Up for Homes in Mangere Town Centre car park. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Mangere Town Centre car park is packed with people and their vehicles this evening as they prepare to sleep in their cars in a show of solidarity with the homeless in New Zealand.

"Park up for homes" is an event set up by a group of Mangere flatmates - a lawyer, graphic designer and community law centre advocate, which aims to raise awareness about the growing issue of homelessness.

Most have come well-prepared, equipped with sleeping bags, blankets and pillows ready for the chilly night ahead.

Papatoetoe resident Reece Autagavaia brought along his two sons Setima, 4, and Taumai, 2 for the night, sleeping in a van with a mattress in the back seat.

The two young boys drew plenty of attention from others as they played on a game device in the opened boot of the van.

Their aunt, Sina Faumuina, also there for the night, said the boys were enjoying themselves and thought they were camping.

Mr Autagavaia said the family decided to head along tonight as homelessness was a "reality" in the country.

"It's our little way of saying that this is not good enough. No child should live in a car."

Mrs Faumuina said she couldn't imagine "enduring it day in and day out".

"We're here to support them [homeless] and bring about the awareness it deserves."

Dozens of volunteers were preparing sausage sizzles and hot drinks for the people rugged up in their jackets and scarves.

Friends Olivia Tausinga, left, and Sisifa Fukofuka in the front of Olivis's car at Park Up for Homes in Mangere Town Centre car park. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Friends Olivia Tausinga, left, and Sisifa Fukofuka in the front of Olivis's car at Park Up for Homes in Mangere Town Centre car park. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Children running around the car park, some already in their pyjamas were sipping on a Milo and eating sausages from the barbecue.

While there were some already retreating to their cars, most were huddled around the small area in the car park which was brightly lit, talking and laughing with their friends and family.

A mother and son travelled from Waikato to sleep in their rented-out station wagon tonight.

Julie Meagher and her 19-year-old son Noah, travelled from Te Awamutu to show support.

"It's not right that people in New Zealand should be homeless, especially families."

"We have lived a very blessed life but we as humans should have compassion and empathy for people that are going through hard times ... we really care about what they have to go through."

"We just want to show solidarity to show we care, that New Zealanders do care and that it's wrong and something should be done about it."

- NZ Herald

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