Auckland City Mission's Bryne

Thursday 28 March 2024

“The Mission saved my life” – Bryne’s story

In his thirties, Bryne Gregory had it all.  The former surf lifesaving champion and firefighter had a successful building business and a loving family with three young daughters. 

But when his business started to fail during the global recession, Bryne turned to alcohol to cope. 

“I fell into a deep depression. I was trying to use alcohol to boost me up and progressively it got worse and worse until things got out of control. It destroyed my family.” 

Bryne lost everything – his business, his family and his home. 

For the next few years, he tried to get by doing some contracting work, but his struggles with depression and alcohol continued. During that time Bryne was in a serious accident, breaking his shoulder, hip, arm and several ribs. His injuries left him needing surgery, unable to walk without crutches, and unable to work.  

“I tried to run away from it all, but things started tipping over again, and eventually I ended up on the streets of Auckland.” 

“I hit rock bottom when I found myself hiding under cardboard boxes behind the back of a church on a wet freezing cold night.” 

Luckily someone pointed him in the direction of the Auckland City Mission – Te Tāpui Atawhai.  

“I arrived at the Mission in a really, really dark place. But the staff here welcomed me with open arms.”  

“I went into Haeata for something to eat.  It was my first proper meal in a long time.  One of the staff sat down with me and just asked, ‘how can we help you?’” 

That first meal in Haeata, the Mission’s community dining room, was the start of Bryne’s long journey towards recovery.   

He accessed emergency accommodation and enrolled at the Mission’s Calder Health Centre, where he could get the medical care he needed for his injuries and depression. He started coming into Haeata every day. 

For Bryne, coming to Haeata was about much more than just a hot meal. Bryne found a compassionate, non-judgemental community amongst the staff and street whānau. He took advantage of opportunities to get more involved through Haeata – becoming a regular at the Mission’s weekly waiata sessions and joining the Mission’s 2021 Round the Bays team.  

“After about three months of coming up here to Haeata, I got my head back into a positive space with the help of the Mission staff, and I put my hand up to be a volunteer in the dining room.” 

“The old Bryne came back. I’d lost him for so long, fighting the demons.” 

With support from the doctors and nurses at the Calder Health Centre, Bryne got a walking frame to help him get around more easily and arranged surgery for his hip. 

But Bryne’s recovery was set back when he had another serious fall, breaking his hip and leaving him in a wheelchair. 

“I spent six weeks recovering in hospital.  While I was in hospital, the lease on my apartment ran out and it wasn’t renewed.” 

Bryne turned to the Mission for support and in September 2022, he was offered one of the 80 apartments in HomeGround. 

“I got the opportunity to move into a beautiful brand new apartment in HomeGround when I got out of hospital. It’s a fully accessible unit, so bench heights are a lot lower, there are grab rails all around the room, easy access shower and all that stuff which has just made life so much easier.” 

“I feel privileged to be here.”  

“The tenants at HomeGround come from so many different walks of life. But here, we are just one big family. There’s always someone to come and help you out if you need it. But if you are having a down day, you can have your own space.” 

“Just about every day there’s some sort of different activity on here, like the tenants’ lunches, the community hui where tenants get to have their say, computer classes, reading classes, poetry classes. It’s all there. And you can take as much as you want or as little as you want.” 

“The only way you’re going to get me out of here is if you put me in a coffin. That’s how much I love it!” 

Bryne has spent much of his life helping others through surf lifesaving and firefighting.  Now he’s committed to giving back to the Mission. 

“The Mission has saved my life and I feel a real need to give back for everything that the Mission has done for me.” 

In December 2021, Bryne set himself an impressive challenge to raise funds for the Mission.  Through his 25 days of Christmas fundraiser, he walked a total of 325km – using his walking frame – raising more than $110,000! 

Today, Bryne continues to work hard on his recovery and is actively involved in building community amongst the tenants of the HomeGround apartments. He still joins Mission staff and street whānau for waiata almost every week, and regularly comes down to Haeata for a nourishing meal and to catch up with old friends.