The Lifewise Big Sleepout 2017
Before my memories of the Lifewise Big Sleepout fade, I thought I would share a few of the lasting impressions that I will take with me.
Whilst our experiences of sleeping rough were sanitised, it was difficult to go to sleep without thinking about those for whom this is a daily reality. The speakers during the evening session were amazing, yet rather than repeat everything they said I thought I would share their responses to a question that I asked them: "if I see a homeless young person on Queen Street, should I give them money?
Each response varied but helped me to formulate my own thoughts.
The first speaker said simply, "do what you feel is right".
The second speaker emphasised that it isn't simply money that people are craving when a paper cup is held out – it is some form of recognition. Eye contact, a greeting, a few words might be all that it takes to perhaps help restore this individual’s sense of their own humanity and dignity.
The third speaker (a young woman who had herself been homeless) echoed some similar sentiments and talked of the pain of being ignored and socially excluded.
It was also interesting to be participating in this event on the evening of the welcome home parade for Team New Zealand. I couldn't help but think how much better a place it could be if the country could muster the same level of support for our 40,000 homeless people as we do for our sailors.
Yes, we are a wealthy country by almost any yardstick; however, the shame of our homelessness situation should weigh very heavily on the minds of our leaders. Yes, it's going to be hard to fix the problem but the current situation is unacceptable.
For further information about Lifewise or to donate: http://www.bigsleepout.org.nz/