Wake up to home­less­ness

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

Lee ah yen Faa­toia went from a warm fam­ily home to cold, harsh con­crete in a mat­ter of months.

He never imag­ined that in his early 20s he would lose ev­ery­thing to end up alone sleep­ing rough on the streets. But his story is not un­com­mon.

Youth­line Auck­land Cen­tral man­ager Kathryn Doughty says the youth char­ity has seen a real in­crease in the num­ber of 16 and 17-year-olds in need of emer­gency hous­ing.

‘‘People don’t like to talk about it – it’s a real hid­den prob­lem be­cause it shocks people that these kids have nowhere to go,’’ she says.

Non-profit agency Life­wise says people aged 16 to 24 make up al­most half of New Zealand’s home­less pop­u­la­tion.

Ah yen Faa­toia was left with noth­ing but pho­tos of his two chil­dren and his daugh­ter’s soft toy when things got tough.

He is one of 103 New Zealan­ders tak­ing part in the Life­wise Big Sleep­out to­mor- row night. The an­nual event is or­gan­ised by Life­wise to raise money to help people out of home­less­ness.

‘‘I had huge plans when I was a kid but you never know what path life is go­ing to take you down,’’ ah yen Faa­toia says.

He sep­a­rated from the mother of his chil­dren, was made re­dun­dant and then evicted when he could not keep up with the rent.

He sur­vived on lit­tle more than a loaf of bread for one week while liv­ing on cold con­crete in Syd­ney.

Ah yen Faa­toia has since turned to act­ing as a form of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, he says. He will be joined to­mor­row at the Big Sleep­out by five fel­low cast mem­bers of the play Whore, which tells the sto­ries of six home­less street work­ers.

The Big Sleep­out raised $152,000 last year, with all the money go­ing di­rectly to fund Life­wise’s ser­vices.

Photo: JESS LEE

No choice: Ac­tor Lee ah yen Faa­toia spent a week home­less on the streets of Syd­ney in his early 20s.

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