Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Tua to join in on park-up crusade

Boxing legend David Tua will sleep in his car for a night next week, joining a growing national movement calling for houses for homeless families.

Tua and his new wife Helen said they had planned to attend the first Park Up For Homes event, which drew 700 people to a Mangere carpark last week, but pulled out because Mrs Tua was unwell. They have decided to hold a repeat event in Onehunga on the night of Saturday July 2.

Park-ups are also happening at Otara and at Parliament in Wellington this Saturday, and more are being discussed in West Auckland and Hawkes Bay.

Rev Emily Worman, a daughter of former Prime Minister David Lange and minister of Mangere's Church in Progress MCC, said when she helped to organise the Mangere event she didn't expect it to spark a national movement.

"We had no idea it was going to take off and other people would want to do them," she said. "We felt a responsibility to help, but we want to encourage people to do their own thing."

Tua said he lived in a car himself for six weeks in Florida in 2009 when his American promoter ran out of money.

"The only thing he could afford was to get me a car," he said. "I didn't tell him what I was doing but I actually stayed in it for a month and a half."

The Tuas now run a gym, David Tua Health and Fitness in Onehunga, and said several gym members were homeless.

"We had a man here who walked in on a Saturday when we were closed. He was immaculately dressed," Helen Tua said.

"He said he was homeless. He lived in his car. We said to him, 'Come here, stay here if you need to.' He said, 'No, all I need is a shower.'

"Two months later he said, 'Guess what, I got a job.'"

David Tua with wife Helen support Park Up For Homes, with organisers Josephine Bartley and Annaliese Johnston. Photo / Nick Reed
David Tua with wife Helen support Park Up For Homes, with organisers Josephine Bartley and Annaliese Johnston. Photo / Nick Reed

The Tuas have supported the Manukau Salvation Army's work with homeless, and Tua was shocked by what he saw.

"I couldn't believe it could happen here in Aotearoa," he said.

Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board member Josephine Bartley, who is helping with the park-up, said she saw rough sleepers on the Tamaki community patrol.

The Otara park-up, which starts at 6pm on Saturday, is being organised by four students at Manukau Institute of Technology. So far, 257 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

"We are trying to create a space for people to share their stories in a family-friendly environment," said an organiser, Shadrack Simi.

The Wellington event at the same time, which 133 people are attending so far, will be in the St Paul's Cathedral carpark opposite Parliament. Bishop Justin Duckworth will open the event with a prayer.

"Every little bit of weight slowly builds momentum," the bishop said.

"As we join with other voices around the country, it is only a matter of time before those who have some influence and some ability to work some changes will have the willpower to do it." Simon Collins

- NZ Herald

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