Roughing it to help homeless
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.
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.
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.