Don’t Blame Society’s Problems on Individuals – Help The Homeless

Don’t Blame Society’s Problems on Individuals – Help The Homeless

As winter continues to hit Dunedin with everything it has, the reality of New Zealand’s housing issue is magnified. Many of us are very fortunate in that we are not constantly plagued by the same chill that others are exposed to on a daily basis, but with that position comes with an obligation: to speak out and force action for those that are.

Far too often one hears that this country is too developed and prosperous to have people living in substandard housing that makes them sick, or even without a ceiling over their head altogether. Despite this, we still have more than 41,000 people living a life on the streets, a figure that has risen 25 percent between 2006 and 2013, as the population only increased by 4.8 percent.

The correlation between homelessness and mental health disorders are stark, as is homelessness with criminality and substance abuse. These factors provide even more problems on top of the existing issues keeping these people pinned into their predicament. In fact, 50 percent of organisations or groups providing homes for homeless people also provide services that help prevent criminal offending, 42 percent for mental health problems, and 40 percent for substance abuse and addiction issues.

If what you have read hasn’t shocked you, then this might: more than half of the 41,000 homeless people are under 25 years old. People like you and me, suffering on streets up and down the bitterly cold islands we call home. It’s easy to ignore this demographic, thinking of them only as being impaired by alcoholism and drug addiction, with just a blanket and a piece of cardboard telling disinterested passers-by how needy they are. In reality, we are the ones who have failed them, and we’re continuing to seek any justification we possibly can to allow ourselves to ignore their plight by placing blame for society’s shortcomings on their individual shoulders.

By Joe Higham, co-editor of Critic, and all-round lovely guy. 

This article was originally published by Critic te Arohi. You can read the article here

Why Should You Volunteer?

Why Should You Volunteer?

It might seem a little counterintuitive to ask what you get out of volunteering. Maybe you picture volunteers as only selfless soup-kitchen helpers and street-corner bucket-shakers. While these are necessary and noble roles, volunteering is often more nuanced than the giver and the receiver of help.

At UniCrew, we prefer to view volunteering as a two-way exchange between the volunteer and the organisation to which they donate their time. For us, a well matched role aligns with the motivations of the volunteer because it is when they are fulfilled and driven that volunteers do their best work. Volunteer jobs make up in character and fun what your classic fast-food chain or supermarket job might lack. Unlike most student jobs, volunteering positions are diverse in nature and connect students with a range of opportunities otherwise hard to come by at university. While these jobs might pay, making time for volunteering is an enriching investment for your social life, future career and the community at large.

Dunedin: A tight-knit town: 

New and seasoned scarfies alike know one of Otago’s major draw cards is its renowned student lifestyle and culture. Work hard, play hard is scarfie gospel. Otago University, New Zealand’s truest student town is close to the areas we all live, work and socialise. The upside of the student population all being packed into our cold tin-can houses like sardines is the warmth our tight knit community. Unlike, Auckland or Wellington, where your friends might live a 45 minute bus ride away, it’s pretty likely you and your mates all live within 20 minute walk of each other and uni too. The student-ville knot helps foster Otago’s hectic, colourful student culture. However, especially if you are new to Otago, you might find that you feel a little isolated even with all these opportunities in arms reach.

Students often uproot themselves from old support networks and feel adrift, especially if moving away from home for the the first time. Newcomers aren’t the only ones who become isolated. Senior students often get comfortable with a group of core friends and forget Otago University houses plenty of fresh weirdos for them to meet. Volunteering is a way to re-shape your connections with others around care and participation. You’ll burst the student bubble, make new friends with interesting people and find the truth in claims that volunteering improves your wellbeing. The confidence you will gain from relating to others from other walks of life will come in handy in social settings and future work opportunities alike.

Your university experience gears you up for many aspects of the adult world, with employment as a focus. However, often our university courses insist on assigning individual grades but the working world will not do the same. Volunteering helps enrich degrees in ways that often university work does not. Employers favour people who can communicate, show good teamwork skills and connect well with others, all skills commonly strengthened by volunteering roles.

Benefits to volunteering:

If you find group assignments a chore, you may find volunteering a more pleasant environment to develop skills for working in a team.  Future employers will also be impressed by you having something professional to add to a CV showing you can rise to the challenge of working in a team. UniCrew can help connect you with an appropriate job that will match the area you want to master. A good volunteering position can connect you with people at different stages of their career where you can prove your skills in a low pressure environment. You might find you have references coming out your ears! For those not so sure of your career path yet, volunteering can be a good opportunity to ‘try on’ a job before committing to it further.


If 2016 left you feeling disillusioned, make like Gandhi in 2017 and be the change you wish to see in the world.  It’s easy as a student to get a shock when you see tiny humans tottering through the Botans or are reminded in Pack n’ Save that not all humans over 25 are lecturers. Yep, the student bubble is safe and comfortable, but the adult world is diverse and staying cooped up in the student quarter will prevent you from interacting with a wide array of people. Community focus groups were a staple of the past. Now, global and individualism based communities are increasing the transience and selfishness of our culture.

Churches used to moderate people’s connection to their communities, organising cross-age connection and assistance to the needy. Now that secular views are on the rise, people are less likely to feel connected to their community. Our capitalist society encourages individualism and promotes putting work and study above relationships. However, firm psychological evidence shows that our health and wellbeing is strongly linked to the meaningful connections we make with others, and how firmly we feel attached to our community.  UniCrew facilitates connecting Students with communities in ways that allow them to use their skills, connect and gain all the benefits of mutually improved wellbeing.

Whether for you volunteering is about socialising, degree enrichment or connecting with the community or all three, it’s important to know what you want to get out of volunteering. This post only scratches the surface when it comes to reasons you may want to volunteer. There are positions for those who have lots of time to spare, and those who are busy, there are those for those who like to be centre of attention and those who want to keep to themselves, those who want to develop skills and those who want to support a specific cause. The most important thing is to work out what you want to get out of volunteering. If you’re not sure, coming in to talk to us may help. UniCrew runs drop in sessions where our trained team can help match you with an appropriate position, whatever your needs. Many people think that volunteering stops at shaking buckets, but that is only just the beginning.

If you’re game, come and talk to us, email or even Facebook us! We hope to see you around 🙂