roughing it with Lifewise Big Sleepout - July 2011

Mark Spring July 02, 2011 : 0

Yesterday, I got to spend the night with two MP’s, a local councillor, a former All Black and a TV presenter, amongst about 70 other brave souls who took part in the LIFEWISE Big Sleep Out. Here is some coverage that appeared on TV3 News today, including a quick comment from me.

The LIFEWISE Big Sleepout is an annual event, aimed at raising serious funds and creating significant awareness of how we can solve homelessness in the city of Auckland. It is a night where business and community leaders forgo their creature comforts for a night of ‘rough sleeping’ as a way of making a public stand against homelessness. Put simply, it’s a no-holds-barred approach to exposing what is often an invisible issue.

I have to come clean and admit my ignorance and cynicism in regards to this cause before getting involved. I think, like many of us, my original mindset was one of suspicion as to the real need of anyone to be homeless in New Zealand. With our welfare system, surely homelessness is a choice?

I’ve learnt that this issue is far more complex than that. No two homeless people share the same reasons for sleeping rough. The term ‘choice’ takes on a whole new context when the alternative is an environment of abuse, or where an individual’s perspective on the world and indeed themselves, is coloured by drug and alcohol addiction and/or significant mental health issues.

I won’t quickly forget meeting Trevor. Until two months ago, he had been homeless for the last 18 years. An award winning University graduate, his undiagnosed bi-polar disorder led to him spending some of his most productive years living on the street. In his words, he lived the life of a ‘monastic nomad’, echoing a sense of loneliness that was a common theme across those we talked with last night.

With the help of LIFEWISE, Trevor has now been in his own accommodation for two months and appears to be managing his mental health issues.

Of all the things I learnt last night, the one thing that will remain with me is the realisation that all of us, no matter what our station in life, is only one life-changing event from ending up on the streets ourselves.

My thanks goes to all of the dtr staff and their families for their generous sponsorship and support of my involvement. As you’ll see from the above photo, the staff at Head Office rearranged my office, so that I’d feel more at ‘home’ when I got to work this morning.

Thanks to Courtney Driscoll for taking photos of the event, including this one to the right.


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