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.