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Community Stories

Each year the Mission supports thousands of Aucklanders in desperate need, these are some of their stories.

Melina's story - Food parcels during lockdown

Mum of two Melina has coped during many difficult times in her life.   When COVID-19 hit in 2020, she turned to the Mission for urgent support because the burden of the pandemic meant she couldn’t feed her family.

The Mission responded with food and care to help her and her family through lockdown.

Melina and her children moved back to New Zealand from Australia five years ago to escape domestic violence. “My best chance for survival was to come home,” says Melina.

She very quickly found her feet with a job she loved in office administration, a car and a house. For the first time in many years, Melina felt safe and her children were settling well into school and life in New Zealand. “I was happy with our situation and life was good,” she says.

After only a few months, Melina was hospitalised with a recurring health issue that forced her to resign from her job.  Suddenly, she was unable to pay rent and feared that she would become homeless.  Thankfully, Melina was moved into emergency housing then into a state home.

Melina was unable to work for months as she recovered from her surgery so signed up for the benefit. Despite having a place to live, she found it challenging to feed her children with the money she had.

“Mum was a support and would buy us food sometimes, but she had her own health issues and needed to look after herself as well.  The benefit I was getting just didn’t stretch far enough for food.”

“I relied on the school lunch programme when the girls were at school, but they were at home in lockdown so it cost more to feed us all, “ says Melina.  “I tried to make it work with what I had but with just a packet of noodles and some cereal, I knew I needed to get a food parcel quickly,”

That’s when Melina came to the Mission for help.   “I unpacked the food parcel and thought ‘this is going to last us’.  There was pantry stuff, chicken and some treats like chocolates for the kids.  They thought it was Christmas again.”

Melina makes use of every item in the food parcels.  She freezes what isn’t eaten straight away for meals to be eaten when money runs out.

She says having support from the Mission during lockdown made the world of difference to her family.   Melina can’t imagine how she would have got through such a difficult time without the Mission.

Although Melina’s children are back at school, she is still impacted by her health issues.  She looks forward to being well again and finding a job soon to support herself and her family.  In the meantime, the Mission will be here for Melina and her children whenever they need food.

Kelvin - one year clean and sober

While the Mission commemorates 100 years of service to the city this year, many of the people we support mark their own special anniversaries too.

In July, one of those people, Kelvin, marked his one year anniversary of being clean and sober after years of drug dependency.  The Mission’s part in Kelvin’s journey to recovery helped create truly positive change his life.

Kelvin would say that for many years, he seemed in control of his life.  He had a great job, a partner and a child.  However, he was doing this all under a cloud of drug dependency.

As a youngster Kelvin always felt different to his other siblings and friends. He thought of himself as an outsider which filled him with anxiety. It wasn’t until he was introduced to cannabis at 13 that he felt he finally fitted in.

“It escalated quite quickly because cannabis became my everything.  As an adult, I would work and it seemed like I had a good life but cannabis was always at the top of my list. I was using drugs to not think and not deal with the world around me.”

A few years ago, he was introduced to the substance methamphetamine.  He found this even more addictive and quickly developed a dependency on it.

When his life came crashing down in early 2019, he realised his masquerade was up. 

In one day he lost a job he loved and his car broke down on the motorway. When he returned to his flat, he found all of his belongings in a skip by the side of the road.

That was the first night Kelvin slept on the street. “There’s nowhere to think on the street. You can’t think. You can only escape. It’s a long day when you’re not really happy with yourself and you don’t know how to deal with it.”

“Someone told me about the Auckland City Mission, but I was too scared to go in at first. I knew I had to talk about the drugs and that was a frightening thought. But I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I knew I needed help,” says Kelvin.

When Kelvin turned to the Mission, different members of our team helped him on his road to a healthy life. After walking through the Mission doors, he was assessed and placed in short-term emergency accommodation straight away.

He remembers: “I left that day with accommodation – I knew where I was going to sleep that night.  It was amazing.  I couldn’t believe it.  The bed had clean sheets. I had a hot shower, some food and money to go to the supermarket, as well as a hop card.”

“What I think is amazing, and what worked for me, was getting housing without any conditions.  Otherwise it wouldn’t have worked.  If I had to try and get clean first, I wouldn’t have had the stamina – wouldn’t have had the brainpower – for it.”

While in emergency housing Kelvin realised he needed help with his addiction and took the big step of seeking assistance.  “It was ‘OK, let’s try social detox’.  I phoned the Mission and had an assessment over the phone. When I got the phone call back to say I’d been accepted, it took a while to sink in. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to get help.”

After a final medical assessment at the Mission’s Calder Health Centre, Kelvin entered our residential detox facility.

In this time, and with the Mission team’s careful guidance, Kelvin began the renowned 12-step addiction recovery programme.  He also attended in-house acute addiction recovery sessions and took every opportunity offered to begin rebuilding his life.

After his stay at the Mission, Kelvin was ready to move to an independent rehab centre. “That’s where I learned about self-belief and why I was using. It wasn’t the drugs. I used them to escape because I didn’t know how to deal with my problems.”

Kelvin’s time in rehab saw him come to terms with his addiction and understand how he can successfully live without a dependency. It’s been a year of hard work and determination by Kelvin. He is mending his relationships with his partner and son and is now looking for work again.

Kelvin is so thankful to the Mission for our ongoing support. Not only is he no longer dependent on drugs but he can see a bright future and is working his way towards that.

“What I feel now is that I have a clean slate I can actually start life with. I have never actually been a clean, straight adult my whole life.”

Kelvin knows that the Mission will be there if he needs our support again. Although he’s already talking about how he can give back and support others who find themselves in the same position that he did last year.

Iris' story - A Christmas to remember

Grandmother Iris loves Christmas. It’s her favourite time of the year despite often being a time of hardship for Iris and her whānau.

Iris, who lives alone, says she enjoys the traditions and festivities of the season but it has always been difficult as she can never afford much. She stretches her income to buy small and useful gifts, such as deodorants and soaps, but wishes she could do more for her family.

Just before Christmas last year, life became very difficult for Iris. She had unexpected large bills to pay and, living off a basic income, she simply didn’t have enough money for food.

Iris remembers the growling of her empty tummy. “I hadn’t eaten for a couple of days” says Iris. “I have always been able to provide for myself. I didn’t want to ask for help, but I was hungry. That was the first time I went to the Mission. I couldn’t believe that I could get food – fresh fruit and veggies as well.”

When Christmas came around last year, Iris visited the Mission’s service at Eden Park in the early hours of the morning. She knew that receiving a food parcel would make her Christmas dreams come true.  This is something she couldn’t imagine in Christmases gone by.

“I met so many wonderful people in the same boat as me.  When I got the food parcel home and opened it I thought ‘WOW, now this is Christmas all right!’”.

So this Christmas – with support from the Mission – Iris is looking forward to spending precious time with her children and grandchildren. Knowing that the Mission can provide much needed support takes an enormous level of stress off Iris. It means she can enjoy Christmas with her family.

The Mission’s food parcel is more than simply a way to feed Iris this Christmas. She will forgo any treat such as chocolates, wrapping them up as gifts for her family who she knows will be delighted.

“I am very grateful for the Mission”, says Iris.  “They do a marvellous job and without their help Christmas would be too hard for me.”

Potoz's story - a whare to call her own

The joy is evident on Potoz’s face as she walks around the little cottage in West Auckland that she shares with her partner and younger children. With the help of Auckland City Mission and Housing First, Potoz finally has a place to call ‘home’ for the first time in her life.

She proudly points out the homemade paper picture frames from the $2 shop filled with photos of her children. “I haven’t finished yet, I’m going to get some more photos and make it look really cool”.

At 36-years-old, Potoz’s life now is a far cry from her childhood, which she describes as the worst imaginable. She says the Mission’s help in her adult years enables her to provide her children with the safe, loving family home that she never had.

Her nickname came at an early age. In school, she was the shortest in her circle of friends and gained the name Poto, which means short in Māori. The ‘z’ was added by someone she met on the streets who later became her best friend.

Potoz was only 4-years-old when she was removed from her mother in the far north and put into social welfare custody then eventually into the care of her father’s family. When her paternal Nana passed away, she was moved from one family member to the next. At the age of 11, after years of abuse and feeling like an outcast with no roots or true friends, Potoz walked out of school and hitchhiked to Auckland.

Being a young girl, her plan was simply to escape to the big city. She made up a story that convinced most people who gave her a ride – except the last person who simply saw a lost girl then called the police.

Potoz was put back into the social welfare system and placed with carers. She was happy until a Family Group Conference session was held in Kaitaia. Suddenly placed back with family once again, she slowly started to adapt, this time with her paternal Nana’s sister.

Treated poorly by her family, Potoz escaped again at the age of 16, after a decade of being physically and sexually abused by those who were meant to protect her – her whānau. She left school and this family behind in exchange for life on the streets in Auckland.

Potoz found a new place to live under the bridge at the bottom of town. The street whānau  – other people experiencing homelessness – became her family and it was with them that she felt finally felt accepted and loved. That was when Potoz was first introduced to the Mission.

“I used to hang out at the Mission in Hobson Street. It’s where I went to get food and see my street family and get support,” she says.

In her new world, Potoz’s traumatic childhood caught up with her. Alcohol and drug addiction became a part of life as she moved from bridges to abandoned buildings. Methamphetamine, or P, eventually became her drug of choice. “The drugs were all I knew. I used because I didn’t want to think about the past anymore.”

Potoz had children while living on the streets and in emergency housing, but her addictions and transient lifestyle meant she couldn’t look after them. When her tamariki were removed from her care, she was worried that history would repeat itself.

She was living on the streets when she met her partner and they have now been together for almost eight years. “When I met my partner, he said ‘it’s either the P, or me’. I knew then that I had to change.  I wanted my kids back.  It took me a while, sometimes I fell back into the drugs, but I finally got clean with the help of my partner and the Mission – and I’ve stayed clean.”

Once sober, Potoz finally had care of her children again and, with the Mission’s help, has created a loving home for them.

Her desire to help others extends beyond her children. Potoz was keen to give back to the community that nurtured her and showed her love in the early days. She became a part of the Auckland City Mission Client Committee. The Committee is a group of current and past rough sleepers who provide advice and guidance to the Mission on service direction. Potoz was elected Head of the Client Committee, a position she held for three years until recently.

Potoz says, “I gave it up because I wanted to concentrate on my kids and myself.  I have come a long way. I’ve been clean since 1 January 2017 – that’s over four years now – and it’s time for me to put my family first.”

She has been in her whare with her partner and younger children for more than a year now and appreciates her new life every day.

“I feel grounded and safe. I have a real home that’s mine for the first time. Even though I’m only renting, I have this and it’s more than I have had previously. It’s my temporary kingdom until I can one day buy a whare to definitely call my own.”

The second-hand donated kitchen table and lounge suite help make her home comfortable. Potoz is also proud of her new purchases from The Warehouse – a microwave, a complete crockery set and coordinated bed linen. It’s the first time she has had something matching and new.

As Potoz looks around her home, she feels proud of how far she has come and looks forward to what the future holds.

A thank you letter from T

I was 18 when I first made contact with the Auckland City Mission or more precisely, the Mission’s Federal Street Detox. From that moment on I have been in contact in one form or another with the Mission for 31 years now.

I have seen many workers come and go and I have also had my opinion about who would last there and who wouldn’t. I have been right in my assumptions more than not.

I was there when the Mission’s Calder Health Centre was but one room at Hobson Street. I was a client sitting in Detox about 18 years ago, talking to (staff members) Wilf, Irene and Diane about the idea they were floating and trying to get off the ground with extending the Mission and building a bigger place with more facilities to help those of us who need the help.

I only am explaining all of this so you know my pedigree and connection with the place in hopes that what I write is taken seriously and not thought of as just ‘happy to be off the street type’ think.

So my connection with the new team helping us homeless was interesting in my eyes to say the least. There was this poto (short) as girl (my first impression because she was so young), who had this infectious energy, say ‘Hi I am Chanelle and I am here to work with you’. I thought ‘Dear God you have sent me a child to give me advice. What are you thinking?’. Within five minutes I realised what He was thinking because by that time, she had removed all doubt for me about her age. She had me apologising for thinking she and the others who first set up the interview were nothing more than children playing grown-ups.

Through working with Chanelle I had the absolute honour of meeting most of the rest of the Street to Home team. My greatest pleasure I have to say is that she was not unique because the rest of them are exactly like her – loving, respectful, caring, strong enough not to take our s***, an ear when we need and someone just to be there when we don’t want to talk.

I am not sure if the team leaders or even the team themselves see what is really being achieved by all of them. I think in many ways, you think you feed us or get us a house or drop food off etc. Now you guys do that but that is the obvious stuff you do.

Here is the stuff you all may not be aware of. I know I don’t just speak for me but for a lot of the brothers and sisters from the streets. Because of who you all are, we get to keep our dignity when we come in broken and battered by the world. Regardless of if it is your first time, or like myself a few more than the first time, you treat us better than most of us have known in a long time. You treat us like we are Joe Normal.  Like we matter. Like we deserve to be part of the world.

You give so many of us a sense of being important and we don’t feel that often at all. You allow us to have moments with our own self-respect. You make us believe in so much more than what we see day in and day out – which is the disdain of most of society or, worse, their total obliviousness to our existence.

We are the invisible, the unseen.  You all, for even sometimes just a moment, allow us to be part of the world again.  You allow us to matter again.

Unless you have been where we are you might not truly realise how much of an effect that really has.

On a personal note what you all did by showing just a simple kindness to a man who truly didn’t feel he deserve any kind of kindness at all, has changed so much of who I thought I was and allowed me to become who I really am.

Today I sit in the library at AUT where I am doing my BA in Social Sciences writing this because of the team.

You all have given me something back which truly makes me believe this is possible. You have allowed me to go for my dreams because not a single one of you would give up on me which allows me to not give up on myself.

I can never fully express my love, respect admiration and gratitude for you all. From the person who first thought ‘what can these kids teach me’ to the person who now knows, please accept the most heartfelt thank you.

Wrapped up in those two words ‘thank you’ is so much more than I ever truly can express. You all may think you are going to try and change the world. No need to worry – you already are. Not just mine but so many more. I know each and every one of you who work with us homeless know my feelings for you all and I know how you all feel in return.

Once again thank you all for being who you are so I can finally be who I am.

I love you guys – and see you tomorrow at breakfast.

Love T

Penny - family comes first

Penny often refers to the three years she spent living on the streets when she was just 14 as the hardest time of her life. That was the first time the Auckland City Mission met Penny nearly 20 years ago.

She says that without the Mission’s support, she wouldn’t be the well, happy grandmother she is today.

“The Mission has been in my life right from the get go. From my first marriage, second marriage, first baby, domestic violence, and to where I am today”.

It’s clear that family means everything to Penny and she likes to keep them close. “It’s all about staying together and staying safe,” she says. She and her partner, children and grandchildren all share a two bedroom house in central Auckland.  “It’s a real full house!” laughs Penny with a cheeky grin, but two bedrooms is better than no bedrooms “I want my children to come home to a warm house, have food in their tummies and a warm bed to sleep in safely.  I don’t want to worry that they are out there on the streets like I was.”

It’s easy to mistake Penny’s cheerful demeanor as not having a care in the world, but her history tells another story.

“I raised my brothers and sisters when I was a child because Dad left and Mum loved to drink.”

Having no food taught Penny how to fend for herself, often going without herself, but at the age of 14 she left home and found herself on the streets. She worked the streets and in massage parlours to earn money to send to her brothers and sisters. The Mission supported Penny with food and safety during this time and Penny remembers it well.

“I remember I would get a cup of hot coffee at the Mission and sit and talk with friends. It’s a safe place and I felt like everything was going to be OK” says Penny.

The Mission also helped with food parcels and presents for Penny’s children, especially over the Christmas period.

“It is such a struggle to feed eleven people and it gets to the point of “Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?”

Penny gets tearful talking about her children and is determined that they have everything in life that she never had. Her family have been on the housing register for three years now and want to move to Whangarei, but the lack of housing options is making it difficult.

In the meantime Penny is happy to be a Mum and look after her kids. “My life has made me strong and I teach my kids that it’s OK to ask for help if you need it. The Mission have always been there for me, never judging me or my situation”

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In the last year, generous

Aucklanders like you have

helped Aucklanders in need...

575

home visits to
provide community
based support

48,679

emergency
food parcels
distributed

17,054

health consultations

536

drug and alcohol
assessments