In day three of Death on the Street, Corazon Miller talks to those living on the streets.

There is no single face to define homelessness.

It's the man in South Auckland living in his van who has a job but no house.

It's the men sleeping outside the Onehunga public toilets.

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It's the young woman often seen at the end of lower Queen St, in the central city.

It's the woman fleeing from abuse, seeking solace from others on the street.

Or the many men and women lining the pavement outside the Auckland City Mission, huddling beneath its eaves, away from the afternoon's torrential rain.

READ MORE:
Homeless in Auckland
The story of Rangi Carroll
How they're dying
Measuring homelessness

Homelessness is just the start of their story and that of the estimated 20,000+ others in the wider Auckland region at the last Census in 2013 - a figure expected to go up in this year's Census.

Around New Zealand, more than 41,000 people fit the Government's official definition of homelessness, which includes those sleeping rough, living in cars, garages, emergency or temporary shelters - of these more than 4000 had no shelter at all at the time of the last Census.

The Census figures, analysed by University of Otago academic Dr Kate Amore, also showed more than half of homeless adults (52 per cent) were working, studying or both and the same proportion were younger than 25.

Many of the rough sleepers were single, men and women, often of Māori, Pacific Island and Asian descent who have moved to the streets for reasons including a lack of affordable housing, unemployment, mental health, addiction and family violence issues.

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Carrie Allen and his two dogs Nala and Kaiser in the van they call home. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Carrie Allen and his two dogs Nala and Kaiser in the van they call home. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Carrie Allen's story started with a broken relationship that saw him go to sleep in his van. Two years later, in the autumn of 2018, he still called it home.

He had a job - moving construction materials between building sites in South Auckland - that earned him enough to pay for his meals, dogs' food and vet bills.

Last year he donated a ham to the Christmas lunch held at St Peter's Anglican Church, in Onehunga.

Allen does not like to have more than he needs and is happy for those less fortunate to take the handouts.

"Food is delivered out here at nights to the homeless, ones that don't sleep in cars. I don't eat from that, I eat basically from my own pocket, my dogs I feed them out of my own pocket."

But despite his regular income, Allen was unable to secure a house for himself and his two dogs for more than two years.

He struggled to save extra money for a bond and to find a place that he was able to have his dogs in.

They shared his mattress in the back of his van at night.

Homeless 54 year-old Cookie has spent 40+ years on the streets throughout New Zealand and in Auckland's CBD. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Homeless 54 year-old Cookie has spent 40+ years on the streets throughout New Zealand and in Auckland's CBD. Photo / Brett Phibbs

He would park in a quiet space behind Onehunga Mall and use a small gas cooker to make his meals.

"That's where I knuckle down with my dogs ... in my van. It can get a bit hot [in summer], winters I'm not too fussed about, I'm used to the cold."

The two large mastiffs, Nala and Kaiser, are not negotiable, they are his lifeline.

"My life doesn't really matter to me anymore ... my main concern is my dogs really, that's all that matters to me."

He says living in the van long-term is probably not good for his health.

"Being out here I think we all have health issues. Some of us don't know it yet.

"For some it's adapting to the weather. I think it's one of those things if you are out here you really need to keep warm.

"You need to keep dry, to know where your next shower is coming from. If you get those basic functions right you do okay."

Several weeks after speaking to the Herald, the construction worker has finally found a house, where he is now living with a friend.

Homeless/streetie Mathew, has lived on the streets for 47 years throughout New Zealand. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Homeless/streetie Mathew, has lived on the streets for 47 years throughout New Zealand. Photo / Brett Phibbs

However, his former living situation is not something he tends to tell others about.

"It's been a secret for years. It is probably more or less the shame, I don't really want them to know."

Friend and fellow streetie Ricky Rawiri exudes a similar sense of shame about his living situation - by the public toilets in Onehunga.

He gives little away about what led him there. Overcome with emotion he struggles to put how he feels into words.

Rawiri seems to blame no-one but himself, saying he made mistakes in his life that led to the streets.

"Just not being honest, too much lies ... it's not worth it ... if I could turn back time ..."

Rawiri wants to get off the streets, but says a broken phone meant he missed his Work and Income New Zealand call.

He could not get to its offices, had not asked anyone for help and was working on saving what little money he had.

"I don't want to be here. I love these fellas here and that, but keep telling them, this is not a place to be, I got no other choice. I been waiting, waiting.

"It's a sickening place to be, I don't want to end up like that [dead before my time]."

He says it is all on him to find a way up.

"I know we have to get on and do things for ourselves," he says. "I just don't want my kids to see me here like this on the street.

"I just want a house, so I can have my kids back."

St Peter's Onehunga vicar, Petra Zaleski, feels powerless to help the homeless in her neighbourhood. Photo / Brett Phibbs
St Peter's Onehunga vicar, Petra Zaleski, feels powerless to help the homeless in her neighbourhood. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The vicar at St Peter's Anglican in Onehunga, Petra Zaleski, estimates the two men are among five to 10 others sleeping rough in the Auckland suburb at the time.

Another, who was in hospital at the time of the Herald visit, has a severe disability and typically could be seen sleeping out the back of the church.

In the weeks since then three, including Allen, have been housed, but Zaleski said others have taken their spots.

The helplessness of the situation angers and saddens her.

"There's nothing for these people ... they are the most vulnerable, they have got convictions, addictions and burnt family ties.

"Most of them have significant trauma stories and there really is not anybody to help.

"These guys have nowhere to go. There is no night shelter in Auckland. No one with the skill set to deal with deeply entrenched alcoholism."

Zaleski does what she can to help, but she is only one person and has a whole parish to care for.

Sean, who lives on the streets of Auckland, spends a lot of time a the Auckland Library. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Sean, who lives on the streets of Auckland, spends a lot of time a the Auckland Library. Photo / Brett Phibbs

She says it is not as simple as moving them into any house in the city - they need the social, psychological and physical supports to stay housed.

"One person got housed out south and just got on a train and came back into Onehunga because that's where their whanau was."

But she says there simply aren't enough services, particularly in the suburbs to help all those who need it.

"It's absolutely fragmented, it's inconsistent and the people that work in NGOS are overloaded.

"I watch tensions ebb and flow all the time and we wonder why people act out, use substances or get into fights."

The latest government-commissioned Housing Stocktake report, released in February, shows levels of homelessness "far outstrip" the available assistance.

Over 2017 the "turnaway rate" for these providers ranged from 82 per cent to 91 per cent, so for every 10 homeless people that approached them only one to two could be housed.

According to the report; "The data from these providers paint a picture of both desperate families and workers from a range of government agencies going through a laborious process of calling around, looking for emergency housing.

"The need for a more modern, co-ordinated system is clear."

Homeless man Tom has spent all of his teenage and adult life on the streets of Auckland's CBD. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Homeless man Tom has spent all of his teenage and adult life on the streets of Auckland's CBD. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Diana Hegan is part of the New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness and has called for a specific government portfolio to tackle homelessness.

She said alongside the commitment to build affordable housing options it needs to look at ways to "address the pipelines into homelessness".

Housing minister Phil Twyford says the Government is still looking at how it could streamline services.

"One of the reasons we performed so badly and the housing crisis got out of control was not just a lack of political will, it was fragmentation and the lack of viewing housing in a unified way.

"There is no question we need better integration between housing policy and broader social development.

Homeless man on the streets of Auckland's CBD. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Homeless man on the streets of Auckland's CBD. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"I think we have to be open to doing things differently and above all treating people with compassion."

Homeless today

41,000+ classified as fitting the broad definition of homeless, those living in insecure housing, vehicles, garages and overcrowded houses

20,000+ Aucklanders fitting the broad definition of homeless

4197 living rough on the streets or in a mobile dwelling

More than half (52%) of homeless adults are working, studying, or both.

More than half (51%) the homeless population are younger than 25.

People identifying as Pacific, Māori, or Asian are overrepresented in the homeless population.

Pacific New Zealanders are ten times more likely to be homeless than European New Zealanders.

Migrants, especially new migrants, are at particular risk of homelessness.

- Source: Otago University Study: Severe housing deprivation in Aotearoa/New Zealand 2001-2013