Chasing Stories: asking the “why” behind homelessness

For more than a decade, Kerridge & Partners have lived by the ethos and mantra of changing the leadership landscape of New Zealand.

Never has this statement been more true than our recent executive search to appoint the inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the New Child Entity (NCE) for the State Services Commission.

This role is about pioneering change and demonstrating courage. The CEO will showcase courageous leadership in transforming and improving the often gruelling circumstances that plague vulnerable children. The NCE will mobilise networks towards a common goal: making a palpable improvement in the lives of our most vulnerable youth.

What was the most haunting element of conducting a search of such an emotive nature, and indeed for such a meaningful cause?

Chasing the stories.

The stories of candidates who have devoted their careers to public service; the stories of leaders from the private sector who exemplified corporate social responsibility in caring for the health and wellbeing of consumers; the stories of candidates who personally handled the aftermath of domestic conflict through social work cases.

But behind every story was a “why”.

These leaders, who have decades of experience in the sector, all had a common thread to their stories: There are systemic socio-political, cultural and economic forces at play that influence the factors behind why children become vulnerable.

And yet, not many of us invest the time to ask the “why” behind the story of a vulnerable person. What is their background and journey so far? Who was involved in the care of this person? Why did they make the decisions they did? How many interventions took place to help them?

It’s crucial to chase these stories. I have begun to chase these stories in light of the homelessness that has risen in Auckland. According to the latest data in the Auckland City Mission’s 2016 Street Count of Central Auckland’s rough sleepers, there are now more than 200 homeless people in the CBD – this is the largest number since the Count began in 2004. There are 177 people sleeping rough within a three-kilometre radius of the Sky Tower alone. A small light in this dark tunnel is that a further 51 people who might otherwise have slept rough were located in temporary accommodation at James Liston Hostel, however others were listed as patients at Starship Hospital, Auckland Hospital and Te Whetu Tawera. We simply have no idea why or when homelessness occurs in people’s lives and what contributes to the decisions. Some are appalling stories as to why they find themselves on the streets.

The concept of ‘chasing stories’ can be best explained by the famous tale of the hare and the tortoise. In their race, the hare sped through the course but ultimately it was the slow and steady tortoise who won the chase.

Perhaps you could be like the tortoise and take the time to consider the “why” of the person’s circumstances the next time you encounter a homeless person sleeping rough on cold, wet streets. Chase stories like the tortoise, slowly and steadily chasing the why.

If you’re interested in supporting the cause to help the homeless, please consider supporting my efforts at the Big Sleep Out on July 7, where I too will sleep rough.

I like the comfort of my bed, husband, cat and electric blanket and at the end of this venture I will go home have a shower, a good meal and be safe in the knowledge I will have a comfy bed and a roof over my head the following night.

There are many less fortunate and it is getting worse – please support me in raising important funds for this great cause and help rehabilitate people off the streets.


Vikki Maclean


Kerridge & Partners

Chasing Stories