Homeless people used to be a rarity.

I remember as a kid, a homeless man turned up in my hometown of Timaru. It was so unusual, he was almost like a celebrity in the town.

He even had a nickname among the locals. Everyone would call him "The Bum".

Us kids would be in the backseat of the car and we'd spot him, nose down in a rubbish bin looking for food.


"There's he goes!" we would shout. "It's The Bum."

Dad would slow the car down so we could take a longer look.

He'd follow up with some kind of remark along the lines of "if you don't grub the thistles and earn your pocket money, you could end up like that."

With jaws dropped, we were glued to the windows astonished someone was actually eating the food from the bins.

Sometimes, if we had been good and Dad didn't have somewhere to be, we would drive around looking for him. "The Bum" stood out like a sore thumb in Timaru with his dirty face, long blonde scruffy hair and a big long coat that went to the ground.

He was only around for about six months and then he was gone.

In Rotorua spotting a homeless person in the street is no longer a novelty.

They're everywhere. If you're driving through the central city late at night, you see large groups of them congregating around the seats.


The other day I got petrol and saw a man outside the service station holding a sign begging for food and money for his children. I drove into town and was approached at the lights by a man who offered to wash my windscreen in exchange for some coins.

Then, as I headed home I spotted the guy walking down the street who I had seen out the back of our work pushing his belongings and bedding in a shopping trolley.

No longer was I shrieking with astonishment about finding a homeless person. It's just what you see nowadays.

Please read our story today about how you can help the city's homeless.