A homeless man who lost his wife, his home and his job has been offered work and a bed.

Out-of-work painter Rob Millar, 59, featured in today's Herald on Sunday after 11-year-old Uili Papalii helped him out, donating his pocket money and his school lunches when he saw him in distress outside shops in Manurewa, South Auckland.

West Aucklander Karen, who asked that her last name not be published, has offered Millar work painting an old hotel in Kawerau, and accommodation, after reading the story.

She posted about her offer on the Herald's Facebook page after reading the story, which had touched her.

"We thought that's a really heartfelt story. I felt for the poor guy. It's a shame the world wasn't full of hearts like that little boy's," she said of Uili.

Karen is involved in managing the renovation of an old hotel/backpackers in Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty and she said the owner was keen for painting and handyman work to be offered to Millar. "I will take him down there."

Millar was delighted to be offered a job that would use his skills. "That sounds like me, absolutely," he said.

But he would have to consider whether it would take him too far away from Auckland, where his networks and family are.

He and Karen will meet on Monday and plan to travel to Kawerau this week to see if the job is right for Millar.


On Sunday several people stopped to talk with Millar after seeing his story in the paper.

"People told me they were lifted by the story. That made my day. It all contributed a little bit - it was nice."

Uili's mother, Julianna Awhina Marsh-Papalii, said he was excited about the offer of work for Millar and, before hearing the details, had offered his pocket money for him to pay busfare to work.

"We are all so very happy that Robert has been offered a job. We give thanks to God. Uili especially is over the moon. Best news ever."

Uili gave his lunch to Millar every day for two weeks and got by at school by eating the free fruit that is provided at schools serving many lower-income areas.

Only when Millar walked to school with Uili and told the boy's teachers did anyone find out what he was doing.

Uili said he had seen Millar sitting outside the shops, crying.

"And I gave him my money and all my lunch. Then I just kept going back every week. He just became my friend. He just had nothing. When I gave it to him he stopped crying."

Millar was depressed after his marriage broke down and he had been homeless since the beginning of the year. He had lost his job as a painter and had not obtained a benefit yet.

Millar was sleeping under bridges and in doorways until a month ago when a couple let him sleep in their carport.