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

The Dunedin Night Shelter: Interview

The Dunedin Night Shelter: Interview

This post marks the first article in a series about the Dunedin Night Shelter and the struggles of the homeless. We’re in the lead-up to the Dunedin Sleep Out and it’s so important to raise awareness of this issue and to support the amazing people in our community making a difference. I was fortunate enough to interview Dave Brown, the chairman of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust about his work with the Dunedin Night Shelter.

 

Could you tell me a little about what the Dunedin Night Shelter does in the local community?

The Dunedin Night Shelter Trust offers anybody, (men and women), emergency accommodation in Dunedin. Clients receive an evening meal, shower, laundry, bed and breakfast in the morning. We also have available staff who can assist clients in finding accommodation or sourcing the help they require. We also have transitional accommodation for selected ex-prisoners, who can stay in Phoenix Lodge for 6 months, in a controlled and supportive environment, to help them adjust to life outside of prison in a constructive way. We work with PARS (Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society).

What makes you angry or upset about our community?

I found myself so angry and upset about some things in our community that I actually choked up with sadness while singing the National Anthem at an ANZAC day service! Some of the things that upset me are the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor in our economy. Some people earn an amazing amount of money, while those in important jobs (e.g. carers of the elderly) earn so much less. The economic successes in our country seem to benefit a relative few at the top. Trickle down theory does not work.

I took a funeral of a 19 year old girl recently. Both her parents worked, but her dad, thinking of the cost of a funeral said, “We exist from week to week. We do not have savings. How can we afford that?” That is life for many families.

Secondly, I have worked among the vulnerable in our community for many years. Changes in technology, economics (loss of manufacturing jobs) etc. mean that there are a lot more people unable to be employed. There are many who can never keep up with digital technology, who got left behind at school. So while there seems amazing “progress” there are those on the bottom who live with no sense of hope or purpose. Looking down the barrel of living a whole life on the benefit sucks.  

This can lead to bad life choices, addictions and sometimes mental health issues. I feel for these people, and I think their numbers may grow.  While our “progress” in technology and efficiency sounds great, it leaves a lot of people behind. I think people can survive poverty, but the lack of purpose, hope and dignity (no useful place in the community) eats at their soul. In my youth it was different in NZ for such people; there were jobs, they had work mates and something useful to do.

Thirdly, I grew up feeling good about egalitarian New Zealand, with our free education system and our public health system, but these days these benefits have been eroded. In the long run I think the changes cost, economically (we pay in other ways – e.g. mental health system cutbacks lead to justice system increases) but also in terms of human well-being. We have lost a sense of “common-wealth”.

What needs to change in Dunedin?

I would like to see more manufacturing jobs created in Dunedin so that people can find useful work. Secondly, our staff at the Night Shelter struggle to find affordable accommodation for people in Dunedin. Thirdly, unemployed people used to have in Dunedin ASCO (Advisory and Support Centre Otago). ASCO ran a day time drop-in (they cooked a cheap meal), sourced vegetables, bread and other groceries that people could buy cheaply. ASCO also offered support and ran various work projects such as pine cone collections. Its funding was cut by the government and it stopped. If I had the money, time, energy and skills I would want to start a similar thing. Dunedin needs a centre like that.

What were your expectations coming into the Dunedin Night Shelter, and how have they changed?

I was part of the exploratory group who began to explore the need in 2003. It hosted a public gathering, became a steering committee and then a Trust Board. My expectations were that I would be a useful member of the committee until the service began, and then move on. I never expected I would become chairman and be involved for this long. I was a part of the formation of Habitat for Humanity in Dunedin and that consumed my life. I guess I did not want that sort of responsibility again, but if anything it has evolved into an almost full-time commitment and consumes many hours every week.

We spend around $120,000 per year – I would never have thought it would have got to such a big budget and responsibility. I guess too I have found it more complex than I thought. We have to consider staff and client Health and Safety protocols. When do you refuse entry? How generous should you be? When does support become support for people’s addictions or bad lifestyle? My original thoughts were just have a house and a few volunteers rostered. But it is so much more complex trying to shuffle so many aspects to it.

What keeps you motivated?

I guess from my spirituality I feel a certain solidarity with those in need. The homeless are my brothers and sisters. I also see it as a way of sharing resources more evenly – resources of money, of time, of skills, education etc. Secondly – the support we have received from the community makes me feel we are not alone on this journey.

What has surprised you the most during your volunteer activity/role/responsibilities?

I guess the support we have received along the journey. When we first began our street appeal people asked, “Why do we need a Night Shelter in Dunedin?” These days we are almost embarrassed by the support and generosity of people. We raised $600,000 to purchase our premises. In 2004, when we were exploring there was a building we looked at going for $600,000. We did not pursue it because we saw that as an impossible pipe dream. But we got better buildings for the same amount in 2015 through Dunedin’s generosity.

How can interested students help out?

We would be very grateful for assistance with our street appeal between 24th July and 29th. If students could give an hour to assist with that would be great.

For this and any other offers (cooking a meal to go into the freezer, giving excess bedding to give to clients etc) phone Carol Frost, our Operations Director at the Shelter on 4770546 or carolfrostpl@gmail.com.

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Image: Dave Brown, the chairman of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust, building a garden shed with Dr Dave McMorran from the University of Otago’s Chemistry Department.

The Dunedin Sleep Out 2016!

The Dunedin Sleep Out 2016!

YOU CAN STILL DONATE TO THE CAMPAIGN!  DO IT NOWW!!

Last Friday, the UniCrew team helped organise a fantastic event: The Dunedin Sleep Out 2016!

The event is a fundraiser for the Dunedin Night Shelter, a service providing emergency housing to those in need.

Sleeping out in the Octagon in the middle of a Dunedin Winter may seem like a health and safety risk, but if anything, sub-zero temperatures help make this event all the more poignant.

We are showing solidarity with those who experience homelessness, and making this often invisible issue more visible by putting it right in the middle of town!

Just as it was last year, the Sleep Out was a great success!

We were so happy to have the team from TV3 Story there to show off our event on LIVE national tv!!

IMG_3572.JPGLive from the Sleep Out: TV3 Story!

The event had a fantastic media response this year, with NewsHub, The ODT, ScoopYahoo NZ  and Dunedin TV all picking up the event this year, in addition to The Star community newspaper putting us on their front page!!
Thanks for helping us raise awareness of this crucial issue!

The event opened with speeches from both Dunedin North MP David Clark, and Dunedin South MP Clare Curran. The wonderful chairman of the Night Shelter Trust Dave Brown also addressed the crowd, thanking the students and organising team for their efforts (we love you too Dave!).

IMG_3581Dave Brown, Chairman of the Night Shelter Trust

The event was well attended this year, and featured a huge number of talented performers to keep the crowd entertained. A huge thank you to all of the following:

Julion Wright
the INTERSECTIONists
The Acoustic Paintings
Otago Dance Association
Zumba with Tammy
Abby Wolfe
James Dignan – music, poetry, art
Simon Kingsley-Holmes
Annie Hayes
Wyeth Chalmers
Andrew Mekhail

IMG_3585.JPGOtago Dance crew lighting up the Octagon stage

This event also would not happen without the support of a HUGE number of businesses, sponsors, community groups and just general good sorts, so thank you all!

Plus I have one more thank you: The wonderful team at UniCrew for all their efforts putting this event together!

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Not all of you are pictured here so I’m going to pick on you all:

Sze-En + Sarah + Dave: For their overall amazingness and organisation of the chaos!
Briar: For the amazing soup and team organisation!
Kelsey: For the awesome health and safety plan and general excellence!
Fred: For the musician cajoling and technical/audio genius!
Lucy/Craig: For the stunning photos/video and your overall help!
Abigail: For the fundraising brilliance, and your constant good vibes!
Damon: For the man-in-a-box and your cardboard-wall skills!
Geena: For your marketing brain and helpful assistance!
Susie: For your fizzing attitude and hype skills!
Angus: For the heavy lifting and helpfulness!
Finn/Anastasia/Alyson: For the injection of energy and helping hands!

+ Our security peeps: Timothy and Luke = Legends!

The people behind this Sleep Out worked so so hard to bring this event to life! They all deserve some thank yous, so give them a mental round of applause!

Here are some more images of the amazing night, and thank you to all our participants!!

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UniCrew Visits: Shop on Carroll

UniCrew Visits: Shop on Carroll

Welcome to our shiny new series, UniCrew Visits. We are walking the talk by visiting our favourite community organisation, and volunteering of course!

Last Saturday a team of us were delighted to visit Shop on Carroll, and the attached opshop warehouse, which caters for other opshops all around the city, to work our muscles and shift some stock for them. Thank you so much to Fiona and her team for having us!

We had enough energy left after to take some silly pictures.

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Once we were done helping out, we all had so much fun exploring and discovering hidden treasures.

I found these old souls, no doubt looking for a new home.

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We also found some hilarious costume items, which we used to accessorise appropriately.

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I found a beautiful box of tiny framed pictures.

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And of course we all hunted through the racks for an opshop bargain.

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Sze-En our volunteer coordinator, even found time to shop for her upcoming nuptials.

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Do you want to be a part of the next UniCrew Visits? Get in touch with us on Facebook!

#TEDTalkTuesday : How great leaders inspire action

#TEDTalkTuesday : How great leaders inspire action

Here at UniCrew we are always asking questions about leadership. What is it, how can we do it better, what does it mean for our community?

One of our favourite talks on the subject comes from Simon Sinek, and is especially relevant in a volunteering context. We are constantly encountering people who through their passion and drive for their work, inspire others to step up and take part.

We love that in particular, this talk speaks on why it is so important for leaders to find their ‘WHY’, their reason for doing what they do. The motivation and drive behind your work is just as important as the work itself.

The impact of thinking about your leadership style and how you work as a leader is huge, as it can enable you to reach more people, spread your ideas further and ultimately be a better member of any community, especially a volunteering community.

 

 

Welcome to our world..

Welcome to our world..

Welcome to the first of many posts on the wonderous new UniCrew blog. We are a hub for everything volunteering, social action and student culture related.
From interviews with local good sorts, to your news and stories, through to volunteering culture, we want to show off the best of what students have to offer.

Stay tuned for lots more to come,

The Editors
Jessie and Fred