Walk­ing that mile

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIELLE STREET

RA­DIO host Richie Hard­core is trad­ing in his crea­ture com­forts for one night to sleep on cold con­crete – an ex­pe­ri­ence he says is a devastating ev­ery­day re­al­ity for many Auck­lan­ders.

Mr Hard­core is one of more than 70 in­flu­en­tial New Zealan­ders who will be rough­ing it for the Big Sleep­out next week.

The an­nual event is or­gan­ised by not-for-profit agency Life­wise to raise money to help peo­ple out of home­less­ness.

Mr Hard­core be­came an ad­vo­cate for the is­sue af­ter he started talk­ing to va­grants on the city’s streets ear­lier this year.

He says he of­ten buys a meal for them and gets their per­mis­sion to share their pho­tos and sto­ries on so­cial me­dia.

‘‘They open up big time and re­gard­less of their vari­ances the gen­eral theme is a re­ally trau­matic his­tory,’’ the Grey Lynn res­i­dent says.

‘‘I think there is a main­stream con­cep­tion that peo­ple who are home­less, or beg­gars, or ad­dicts, choose to be that way, when in fact it is far from it. There is just not the sup­port net­works that mid­dle and up­per class peo­ple have.’’

Mr Hard­core says other re­cur­ring themes dur­ing his dis­cus­sions are sex­ual abuse, im­pris­on­ment and hunger.

‘‘I met a guy who had been in­car­cer­ated for at least twothirds of his life from a young age. Where is he go­ing to get the skills to get ahead in our cul­ture?’’

Life­wise says rough counts in­di­cate there are about 100 peo­ple on the streets at any one time in Auck­land’s CBD.

And while it is hard to as­sess the true size of the prob­lem the case load for the Life­wise home­less sup­port team has grown 260 per cent since 2008.

Mr Hard­core, who works for the Auck­land Coun­cil to re­duce the harm­ful af­fects of drugs and al­co­hol on young peo­ple, be­lieves home­less­ness is a so­ci­etal prob­lem and would like to see more com­pas­sion shown to­wards rough sleep­ers.

‘‘It could be you or it could be some­one you care about. If you talk to peo­ple like Life­wise or the City Mis­sion they say that it only takes three ma­jor life events for some­one to go from a stan­dard life to be­ing home­less,’’ he says.

‘‘Imag­ine how low you have to get to sit on the con­crete ask­ing com­plete strangers for coins. Imag­ine how low your self-es­teem would have to be.

‘‘Why not con­sider that’s a hu­man be­ing.

‘‘That’s a per­son who has feel­ings, hopes and de­sires,’’ he says.

Life­wise started the Big Sleep­out in 2010 and with the funds raised so far it has been able to place more than 124 home­less in­di­vid­u­als in per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Par­tic­i­pants for this year’s event in­clude politi­cians and busi­ness peo­ple who will be bed­ding down in an open-air plaza on the AUT Univer­sity cam­pus for the night.

Each will have a sleep­ing bag and a piece of card­board to make them­selves com­fort­able.

Peo­ple can spon­sor the ‘‘rough sleep­ers’’ through the Big Sleep­out web­site.

But Life­wise gen­eral man­ager John McCarthy says the Big Sleep­out is much more than a fundrais­ing event.

‘‘Life­wise is mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant progress to end­ing home­less­ness in Auck­land but it’s a com­plex is­sue re­quir­ing ac­tion at many lev­els,’’ he says.

‘‘We know that old ap­proaches don’t cut it. Life­wise has changed its ap­proach but we need to find in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to other pieces of the puz­zle and this is partly what the Big Sleep­out aims to do this year.’’

Mr Hard­core says he ap­pre­ci­ates Life­wise’s holis­tic ap­proach to the is­sue, which is part of the rea­son he chose to take part in the event.

‘‘I’m ac­tu­ally not look­ing for­ward to sleep­ing out­side, I’m a bad enough sleeper as it is,’’ he says.

‘‘But it’s cool that all these peo­ple have come to­gether for one night of dis­com­fort to raise money.’’

The Big Sleep­out takes place on July 4.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Sleep­ing rough: 95bFM ra­dio host Richie Hard­core be­came in­ter­ested in the is­sue of home­less­ness af­ter talk­ing to rough sleep­ers on the city streets.

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