Rough­ing it to help home­less

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Dun­can Matthews is sleep­ing rough to raise aware­ness of home­less les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and gen­der-di­verse youth.

Rain­bowYOUTH’s gen­eral man­ager is one of more than 125 in­flu­en­tial New Zealan­ders who will be rough­ing it for one night in the Big Sleep­out start­ing on July 2.

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

Matthews says the com­mu­nity is dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected by home­less­ness.

Auck­land City Mis­sion fig­ures from Oc­to­ber last year found 147 peo­ple sleep­ing rough within a three kilo­me­tre ra­dius of the Sky Tower, up 116 per cent from a count of 68 in 2013.

Rain­bowYOUTH is a not­for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion based on Karanga­hape Rd pro­vid­ing sup­port for les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der, queer and in­ter­sex (LGBTQI) youth.

‘‘It’s es­ti­mated that some­where be­tween 20 and 40 per cent of [home­less un­der 25s] are LGBTQI and that’s a sig­nif­i­cant over-rep­re­sen­ta­tion,’’ Matthews says.

LGBTQI peo­ple are of­ten re­luc­tant to ap­proach main­stream or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as health and hous­ing agen­cies, for help be­cause of fear of how they will be treated, he says.

‘‘Par­tic­u­larly if they are a trans­gen­der in­di­vid­ual or gen­der-fluid they might get mis­gen­dered fre­quently. In a hous­ing sit­u­a­tion it can be dif­fi­cult es­pe­cially if they have seg­re­gated dorms and toi­lets.’’

Rain­bowYOUTH works with or­gan­i­sa­tions to ed­u­cate staff around sex­u­al­ity and gen­der iden­tity. Matthews says there are no sta­tis­tics avail­able to pin­point the rea­sons be­hind the high num­ber of home­less LGBTQI youth but they are more likely to be kicked out of or feel un­safe at home.

Auck­land Coun­cil has set a tar­get to end sleep­ing rough in the city streets by 2020.

A brief­ing pa­per to the Gov­ern­ment in De­cem­ber said there is a se­ri­ous lack of emer­gency hous­ing for women, youth and gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple.

Life­wise started the Big Sleep­out in 2010 and with the funds raised so far it has been able to house hun­dreds of home­less in­di­vid­u­als in per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Par­tic­i­pants for this year’s event, in­clud­ing Al­bert-EdenRoskill coun­cil­lor Cathy Casey and Auck­land Cen­tral­based Labour list MP Jacinda Ardern, will be bed­ding down un­der the stars in the cen­tral city for the night on July 2.

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.

Photo: NZPA

Sleep­ing bags and blan­kets lined up along the foot­paths as celebri­ties, MPs, busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers set up camp at the Big Sleep­out to in­crease public aware­ness of home­less­ness.

Photo: JESS LEE

Dun­can Matthews is tak­ing part in this year’s Big Sleep­out to draw at­ten­tion to the high num­ber of home­less les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and gen­der-di­verse youth.

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