Family's Palmerston North homeless gesture goes viral

By Alecia Rousseau -
Te-Kai-Po Ahuriri, his wife Missy and their children spent last weekend in the central city handing food out to the homeless. Photo/Karla Karaitiana
Te-Kai-Po Ahuriri, his wife Missy and their children spent last weekend in the central city handing food out to the homeless. Photo/Karla Karaitiana

A Palmerston North family has been flung into social media stardom after a video of them feeding the homeless went viral.

Te-Kai-Po Ahuriri, his wife Missy and their children spent last weekend in the central city, handing out food to those sleeping on the streets.

Media all over the world have picked up the video but Mr Ahuriri said their intention was not for fame but to show the turmoil of those living rough on the streets.

"We had been going out for the past three weekends in Palmy but, for many years, we have been taking people in, giving them a meal or a bed for the night. We know people at street-level and we see this huge need with our own eyes."

The couple had been in discussions with the Rotorua Love Soup Kitchen in an attempt to establish one in Palmerston North.

"They invited us up there for a few days to see how it all works . . . but, rather than waiting to get up there, we thought why not start something now," Mr Ahuriri said.

There appeared to be a number of people who had ended up in Palmerston North from other areas, he said of the homelesss situation in the city.

"It might be through the prison system or the mental health system - last weekend we met a guy from Wanganui. There was a 17-year-old boy who cried when we offered him some food - he was so thankful, he hadn't eaten in two days.

"We had three people cry . . . I was like, 'oh man, you're killing me', it's hard to see."

He said people were living in hedges near Coronation Park, in condemned buildings around the CBD and in recycling skips. He also gave up his only jersey to a man sleeping on the concrete outside Kelly's Mall.

"I didn't mind giving up my jersey, he was on the cold ground and I had a home to come home to but . . . it's worrying for this guy in the bin because of the man who was crumpled - if he oversleeps that could be the end but, he's just trying to find some warmth."

Te-Kai-Po (left) and Missy Ahuriri have been seeking out those living on the streets in Palmerston North, offering them food and support. Photo: Karla Karaitiana
Te-Kai-Po (left) and Missy Ahuriri have been seeking out those living on the streets in Palmerston North, offering them food and support. Photo: Karla Karaitiana

Mr Ahuriri acknowledged some of those begging on the streets were using it as a way of getting drugs and alcohol but said the people they were engaging with were in genuine need.

"The first thing is to feed them and house them. Then we need to go back and look at the issues they are dealing with."

Mr Ahuriri's childhood friend of 38 years was found dead in Rotorua last year after living on the street for some time.

"He was like a brother to me . . . if I had've known he was living like that, we would've taken him in."

Mr Ahuriri said seeing people living rough was heartbreaking, and he knew what that felt like.

"I was adopted out as a child and raised by a Pakeha family. I've always felt homeless myself so I know what it feels like not to have a home or know where you belong.

"Maybe when people see a patched gang member like myself doing this kind of thing in the community, they might change their perceptions."

Mrs Ahuriri said if they could open their home to all those in need, they would.

" . . . we only have a small two-bedroom home and not a lot of money. But it doesn't take much and we have been doing it all out of our own cupboards."

Since the post was shared, thousands had offered their support with videos of others doing similar acts flooding in.

"We didn't expect this at all; we've had a thousand private messages," Mrs Ahuriri said. "We had a reporter from Taiwan on the phone this morning."

The couple said they were in need of items such as chest freezers, cupboards and storage containers to keep food that was now being donated.

"At this stage we have chosen to go out on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday because that seems to be when they are most in need, " Mr Ahuriri said. "But, our goal is to get out there and do it every day."

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