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Did you see Paul Little’s column in yesterday’s Herald? I did. And I was disappointed that Paul Little chose to celebrate volunteer awareness week by singling out a community organisation for attack.

It’s not the first time he’s done this. Back in 2012 his headline read “Sleeping rough a mere party trick” but the article has since been removed from the NZ Herald website.

Five years later, it appears not much has changed. And it’s true that the Lifewise Big Sleepout’s goal of ending homelessness hasn’t been met. Yes, Lifewise looks forward to the day when not-for-profit organisations like ours don’t have to fundraise, through events such as the Big Sleepout, to provide vital services like housing support for youth who are homeless. We also look forward to the day when government takes responsibility for ensuring all New Zealanders are well housed.

But until we stop seeing people sleeping on the streets, youth having to hustle, families living in cars, unless we have a New Zealand we can be truly proud of, we will not stop raising awareness and we will not stop having events like the Lifewise Big Sleepout.

Empathy is built through experience – Paul Little might like to improve both by taking up one of the volunteering opportunities Lifewise offers.

As for what the Lifewise Big Sleepout has achieved lately:

  • Last year, the funds raised introduced the concept of Housing First to Auckland. This directly led to the government providing 2-year funding for the Housing First Auckland collective. When was the last time 5 NGOs came together for such a big project and a collective response?
  • Through the Housing First programme, Lifewise in partnership with Auckland City Mission have housed over a dozen people in the last month. These are people who have experienced chronic homelessness.
  • Over the last 7 years, the Lifewise Big Sleepout has made more businesses think of sustainable ways in which they can get involved in ending homelessness: one is by employing people who have experienced homelessness so they can become independent.

For more information on what the Lifewise Big Sleepout has achieved, please have a look at our social media channels, search for #HousingFirst or “Housing First”.

And to our committed Big Sleepout participants, if ever you are questioned about why you participated, please give them an informed answer. And remember that your support and participation makes real changes happen. For that we cannot thank you enough.

Warm regards,

Moira Lawler
Chief Executive, Lifewise


Paul Little’s column in Sunday’s Herald.


More about the government’s investment into the Housing First programme.