Homelessness by Susan Grimsdell

Homelessness is getting a lot of attention in New Zealand nowadays, particularly in Auckland.

People who live in so-called leafy suburbs rarely come across it, I imagine, whereas I live in the Central City and have homeless people sleeping outside my building and in doorways and on benches all the way up Queen Street, so I see them every day and it’s hard not to think about and care about their plight.

Where has kindness gone?

What our society needs is a good helping of kindness.  New Zealand used to have kindness written into political policies.  When I got here in 1970, it was a given that there should be houses owned by the state, available to accommodate people who fell on hard times and who couldn’t afford to pay market prices or market rates.

Since then various governments have been selling those state houses until now there are tens of thousands of people who simply don’t have a home to live in.  If the state can’t step in then those people have nowhere to turn to.  They sleep in cars, crammed into garages with ten others, or literally on the street.

Achievements in the past

I think about what England achieved after the second world war.  Many cities were bombed almost to smithereens, especially London; the economy was shambolic, lots of young men (potential labourers) were gone forever, yet the British got on and built hundreds of thousands of dwellings.  Construction started right away and by 1945 the first houses had been moved into.

By 1955, ten years after the end of the war, 1.5 million homes had been completed.  Our own government by contrast is hoping to build 100,000 houses in the next decade.  What a pathetic target!  Our economy, we’re told, is “rockstar” quality, not “a shambles”.  Yet that’s the level of our ambition, nearly 75 years after Britain showed us the way.  Shame!

Fairness and kindness to the fore

We should let our instinctive sense of fairness and our innate kindness prevail and insist that we do better.  Give housing number one priority, because when people have nowhere to live everything else in their lives starts to fall apart and we all feel the pain.

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2 Comments on “Homelessness by Susan Grimsdell

  1. Where I come from in South Wales there were a great many prefabs being built just after the Second World War and rented out by the local council. We moved into one in 1948. For its time it was state of the art. We had a living room with an open fire, a kitchen (with built in electric cooker and fridge – almost unheard of for us ordinary plebs). There were two good sized bedrooms with fitted wardrobes and a bathroom and separate toilet. The garden was huge (all around the building) so we were able to grow vegetables and flowers and have a lawn). My father hated gardening but he did his bit. Outside we also had a garden shed. No need for a garage – who had a car?These prefabs were built to last for about ten years; yes, they’re still going strong. There must be a point to why I’m telling you all this. Have a word with Mrs Ardern; she sounds like a nice lady. Perhaps she could do something about your housing problem.

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