The Lifewise Big Sleepout is our annual fundraising event. It is a chance to share the vital work we do with the wider public. With the BSO, our aim is to tackle homelessness by fundraising and also by creating empathy, hoping people understand the vicious cycle of homelessness.
In previous years, each Big Sleepout focused on a particular aspect of homelessness. For example, the 2017 event was all about youth homelessness, and the first ever BSO in 2010 was about Merge Cafe. This year, we are focusing the Big Sleepout on a holistic approach to addressing homelessness through sharing our efforts at preventing homelessness before it happens.
This is not a novel idea. It’s like treating a health or medical issue. Rather than simply treating the symptom, we also seek to treat the cause, and the same applies to homelessness, which is a symptom of other systemic issues.
Our research and experience have shown us that people who end up “sleeping rough” share certain similarities, such as a history of mental health or addiction issues or a childhood spent in foster care. We have also seen that, through the support of friends and whānau, and the community at large, people are less likely to fall back into homelessness.
All our services work to prevent homelessness in different ways, but two, in particular, are most crucial: Lifewise’s Mana Whanau programme and Lifewise Rotorua.
MANA WHĀNAU – WORKING WITH FAMILIES IN THEIR OWN HOME
Our program Mana Whānau focuses on empowering families whose children are on the verge of ending up in government foster care. This means sharing what it means to be a parent and a family and what positive care for children can look like.
This radical, transformative step could play a key role in reducing our homeless population. This 6-month program aims at directly integrating social worker support to families within their home. It is an intensive, evidence-based programme that places social workers where they need to be most. Initially, we place social workers in-house for up to 65 hours per week and scale it back as the family gains the ability to cope and parent effectively.
Mana Whānau is family-led. We work directly with parents, as well as the broader whānau to understand what exactly the family needs to work on, thereby delivering results on each family’s needs. This includes work on understanding the unique “toxic” stresses or fears of each family that drive certain behaviour. From big-picture concerns like fear of losing their children or losing their home, or mounting bills, through to smaller issues like clutter around the home, we understand that stresses build and multiply. Addressing these stresses – their root, causes and effects – is a key part of helping a family care for their children.
It’s about padding the waka together with the whānau, understanding that we, as a broader community, are in this together. Our experience indicates that families who stay together, through the support and nurture of the community, have better outcomes for their children. That’s what our Mana Whānau programme aims to achieve.
LIFEWISE ROTORUA: MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION SERVICES
What happens when you consider addiction as part of a broader set of health issues that can afflict us?
Here at Lifewise, we seek to understand and treat the deep intersection between mental health, addiction and homelessness. Those sleeping rough suffer drastically higher incidences of mental health issues, and face addiction issues higher than that of the general public.
Our mental health and addiction services are rooted in the understanding that mental health and addiction issues are exacerbated by stress. Together with homelessness, they form a vicious cycle that reinforces each issue.
Following the principles of Housing First we provide Short-Term Emergency Housing services: 24/7 live-in support in a residential setting to support people suffering from mental health and addiction issues.
We know that having a stable, welcoming home can be an excellent place to heal these issues. Our support includes counselling sessions, support groups, and leading with a recovery-focused mindset.
Most of the time, to begin your future, you need to address the issues in a safe space where you are prepared to deal with tough topics. Lifewise is dedicated to providing those spaces and thereby helping homelessness at large.
HELP LIFEWISE END HOMELESSNESS IN NEW ZEALAND
At Lifewise, we are dedicated to ending homelessness. Join us in strengthening our holistic approach to homelessness, help us raise awareness and support for our services. The key to our success is your continued support. To help us build connected and supportive communities, donate today.