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