Community Stories

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

Trolleys with food lined up against a red brick wall.
Aaron & Lisa's story

Constant daily pressures and the cost of living have meant that even “normal” is now often impossible for many families.

Each day well over 100 people receive support with food from Auckland City Mission – Te Tāpui Atawhai when they simply have nowhere else to go. In winter the need increases.

The choice to reach out for help is never an easy one and often not a choice at all – it is the last heart-breaking option.  Lisa and Aaron* know this all too well.  They turned to the Mission for help with food last year when they had no money for groceries.

Until three years ago, the pair were both working full-time and enjoying life in their new home in Manurewa. Then Lisa was hospitalised with kidney disease and was unable to work for six months. As she was the main breadwinner, this was a huge blow financially as well as extremely worrying.

When she returned to work, Lisa’s relationship with her employers broke down and she was diagnosed with workplace-induced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Devastated, she had to give up her career of 30 years. The couple was soon unable to meet mortgage repayments and the fear of losing the home that they had worked so hard to buy left them unable to sleep at night.

Soon after, three close relations passed away in quick succession. The combination of bereavement, illness and money troubles threatened to overwhelm them.

After extensive negotiations with their lender, the couple was greatly relieved to have the threat of a mortgagee sale lifted. They could stay in their own home.

The reprieve helped Lisa’s mental health and she felt well enough to start studying towards a new career. However, the couple still struggled to make ends meet. Utilities and petrol were prioritised so they could keep their home, work and study but food prices were rising fast and eventually became unaffordable.

Aaron, who had always kept a brave face for Lisa’s sake, began to fear for his own health.

“I was several years in remission for bowel cancer, and I was afraid that the stress would bring it back. I have regular routine ultrasounds and CT scans, and recent blood tests revealed that my cancer markers were coming back.”

Although now in remission, he cries as he recalls the time of intense anxiety.

“It was terrible to reach the point of having no money for food. The thought, ‘How are we going to eat?’ was going round and round in my head.”

The couple knew they needed help.

“I was very hesitant to phone the Mission for help but when I did, the staff were amazing. They were so kind and professional. In fact, they made me feel a lot better about myself and that helped reduce the stress I was feeling,” Aaron remembers.

The Mission provided support with food for a few weeks until Aaron received a pay increase, his first rise in five years.  Now the family can afford a basic grocery shop again.

“We buy the same foods that were in the food parcels because we know they are healthy and economical.”

“We are a long way from the days of five years ago when we could pay all our bills, treat our children and grandchildren, and even eat out occasionally, but at least we can buy food again,” Aaron says.

“I don’t know what we would have done without food parcels. We would have been trying to live on milk and bread and eggs and I don’t think we would have survived. We feel incredibly grateful and blessed to have had the help that we received from the Mission.”

*Names changed to protect privacy

Interior apartment
Living at HomeGround - Shane's story

Shane, 55, was one of the first tenants to move into HomeGround. Several months on, he reflects on what having a home means for him.

“I’ve never lived anywhere like this; I’ve always been poor. Growing up we had holes in the walls, and we didn’t have a car or anything much. If I could pick my dream home, it would be this one so I can’t believe I’m here.

“I’m just so grateful to be given a flat here. And I’m so proud of my flat, it’s beautiful. I’ve got my own shower and brand-new appliances.”

Before HomeGround, Shane was living in a central city backpackers’ hostel. It wasn’t in a good condition and didn’t feel like a safe or secure place to be. Once lockdown restrictions lifted, Shane headed straight to the Mission and applied for a HomeGround apartment. During the screening process, he was invited in for a chat.

“When they called me in, I thought they were going to tell me I didn’t get in. But they said, ‘Hey Shane, come up and see your new apartment!’ and I was like “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat??!!! I rang my brother and showed him around using my phone. And he’s going, ‘Wow!’

“I am so happy, and so honoured to be here. You couldn’t find anyone here who is happier than me, you couldn’t find anyone more grateful.”

With 24-hour security at HomeGround, Shane feels much safer than he did at the backpackers. “If you’ve got any problems, you just ring security and they sort it out. It means I can get on with my life.”

Another benefit of living at HomeGround is the community. Growing up, Shane says he thought about joining a gang so that he could feel part of something. Now, he says “Living here, I feel like I belong. All the courses and events bring us together and we look out for each other. At the backpackers’ I was alone, but here it’s like having whānau.”

It is the role of Sam, Community Development Lead, to help foster a sense of belonging amongst tenants and organise life-enriching activities for them to participate in.

“Sam is one of my favourites because he runs courses,” says Shane. “When Sam organised a computer course, I went along because I’m not very flash on the computer and they helped me update my C.V. Then Sam helped me to get a job.

“A week before Christmas I got the call to say I got the job and I said, ‘Sister, this is the best Christmas present ever.’ It’s just a cleaning job, but I see it as a stepping stone.

“Sam also organised a reading group on Fridays to talk about books. They’ll read a chapter and stop, and we’ll have a bit of a kōrero about the story and we relate it to ourselves. Sometimes we end up talking more about ourselves than the books, and it’s so much fun.”

Now, Shane is firmly looking to the future. “My dream job would be to work here at HomeGround. These people are helping Auckland, not just here but all around the district and they are awesome people, selfless people, who are just trying to help. That’s what I want to do, I want to give back.

“I’m 55 and I’m reinventing myself.”

Becky's Story

“My kids have never had a big birthday or Christmas – it’s thanks to the Mission that I can put gifts for my moko under the tree and a meal on the table when Christmas rolls around.”

Becky’s first visit to the Mission was over twenty years ago. Her son was born almost four months prematurely and required extensive medical treatment. The cost of travelling to and from her home north of Auckland to Greenlane Hospital every day left little money for anything else.

“I was completely lost. I went to Auckland City Mission and collapsed and cried and didn’t know what to do. I was nervous to ask for help, but there was not one judgement, and they were able to support me in so many ways.”

Since then, the Mission has been there for Becky in her and her family’s times of need – including at Christmas.

“My kids have never had a big birthday or Christmas – it’s thanks to the Mission that I can put gifts for my moko under the tree and a meal on the table when Christmas rolls around.”

Christmas is always busy for Becky, in fact hers is a constantly full household with a mix of children and grandchildren living at home – nine people in all. Having had a difficult upbringing herself, she focuses on providing as best she can for her family.

Becky says that before seeking the Mission’s support, she had resorted to thieving just to feed her family – something she wouldn’t dream of now.

Eight years ago, life took a turn for the worse when her husband of more than thirty years became terminally ill, with a lung condition exacerbated by his work with bitumen and fertiliser. Her husband’s illness prevents him from working and Becky from working full-time so that she can care for him, their children and grandchildren. She works one day a week for a local business and has a market stall on the weekend, but that’s all her situation allows.

Now, with the increased cost of living, money is tighter than ever. She is often faced with difficult choices about the basics – whether she can afford the petrol to take her family where they need to be or pay the power bill. She often makes meatloaf with rolled oats mixed in to bulk it up and make the meal last longer. Despite careful budgeting by the end of the week, there’s often no bread and no milk – in those times, the Mission is never far away.

The stress of supporting her family through their challenges takes its toll. Recently the Mission supported Becky with a referral to counselling services. She says that has been helping a lot.

“I wasn’t sleeping. My eyes were bloodshot all the time. I was tossing and turning about what was going to happen next. I feel a lot brighter now. It took me a long time, I had to hear from others, that I don’t always have to hold the world up for others. But I don’t want anything to slip, not on my shift.”

One day, she would love to be able to give her children and grandchildren a big Christmas, but the reality is that this year the Mission and its food and gift service is their only option.

“To me, the Mission is a big capital Everything. Right from emotional stability, to making me feel like I’m needed – you go there [to the Auckland City Mission] for help, and leave feeling better. Like you have a reason to carry on. Clothes, blankets, travel, Christmas presents, even a hug that says it’s going to be okay.”


"Thank you for supporting the Mission so that I could find my way home."

A little over a year ago, if you had told me I’d be living at HomeGround, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I’m proud to say I was the first tenant to move into the apartments in Auckland City Mission’s new building.

One of the best things about living at HomeGround is having the Calder Health Centre on the ground floor. With the support of the team there, my health is improving.

The staff are so good – they are really kind. I have found out more about my body through the doctors and nurses there than I ever knew in the past. Most doctors don’t tell you in layman’s terms what it all means – but these ones do. I now know that I have sciatica and arthritis. The Calder Health Centre staff helped me with all of those things. The pharmacist is really good too – he makes sure that I understand what the pills are for.

I had a 30-year career as a heavy vehicle driver and had been renting for more than 10 years, when I found myself dealing with health issues that meant I could no longer drive trucks. Physically, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It doesn’t take much to tire me out these days.

While I was out of work, my landlord decided to sell.

I would have just found a new place, but because I was out of work, I was out of options. WINZ then told me about James Liston Hostel. It’s a transitional housing facility run by the Mission. I was relieved there was somewhere I could go.

While at James Liston, the Mission staff encouraged me to apply for a HomeGround apartment, and in May I heard the good news that my tenancy application had been accepted.

The best thing about HomeGround is I’ve got my independence, which is very important to me. There is support here if I need it, but I can do things on my own. And it’s not far to go to get my medication or see the doctor – I only have to get in the lift.

Since moving into my apartment, I’ve reconnected with family and look forward to having whānau come and visit.

The Mission has been really good to me. You hear about what they do, but until you see it for yourself, you don’t realise that it’s true – they really do try and help anyone who needs it.

Thank you for supporting the Mission so that I could find my way home.


Mack's story - carving out change

“Even though I never knew much love in my life, I know that I love my kids. I choose to be better for them,” he says. “I want to get a house of my own, so that I can leave something behind for them.”  

When Mack* first walked through the Auckland City Mission’s doors, he was staying in a boarding house and had no permanent place to live. Now, just a year later, with the Mission’s help, he’s working towards a life-changing goal.  

Mack had been to see the Mission’s Food Security team in Boston Road for help, and had heard about Haeata, the Mission’s community dining room in the city. As well as serving a hot meal each day, Haeata hosts various groups and activities. Mack was keen to see if the Haeata team could help him get involved in wood carving.   

At Haeata, Mack connected with several Mission staff, including Vicky from the Street to Home team.  

“One of the first people Mack spoke to at Haeata was our Whaea, Rose. Her manaakitanga (kindness) and efforts to build whanaungatanga (a sense of connection) helped him step through the initial stage of engagement and feel welcome, so that I could complete an assessment and bring him into the Street to Home programme,” Vicky says. 

“I asked him to tell me some of his story, and my heart was blown wide open,” Vicky says. “Despite everything he has been through in his life, there is something special about him – somehow he has retained his heart.”  

Mack was just two-months-old when his mother was killed in a car accident. He never knew his father.  

“I grew up with people I didn’t really know. I never knew what it was like to have a Mum and Dad, to have love in my life,” Mack says. “I had a social worker, I was in welfare homes. There was violence and abuse.” 

Mack often ran away and would hang out with the street kids in town. He didn’t go to school much.  

“I was sniffing petrol under Grafton Bridge when I was eight,” he says. “I wouldn’t change the way I grew up though – it has made me strong. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I’m just happy to be still alive.” 

Later in life, Mack was attracted to gang life because “they were the biggest, baddest people I’d ever seen, and that was the life I liked.” 

Over the years, Mack has been in and out of prison – it was there that he learned his wood carving skills. Through the Mission, he had an opportunity to start carving again.  

“I got to know some people at the Mission and I got along with people. I started coming to breakfast. Then the Mission loaned me some carving tools and trusted me. I’d sit down and have breakfast with everybody, but mostly I’d just go there to do my carving,” Mack says.  

Despite the violence and abuse he has seen in his life, Mack is a positive, proactive person. He has now distanced himself from gang life, street life and drugs so he can focus on the future – particularly his children and grandchildren. 

“Even though I never knew much love in my life, I know that I love my kids. I choose to be better for them,” he says. “I want to get a house of my own, so that I can leave something behind for them.”  

With the support of the Mission’s Street to Home team, Mack is now in the process of settling into a new home: he recently got the call he’d been waiting for from Kāinga Ora and has just picked up the keys to a two-bedroom unit. He has completed a literacy programme, which enabled him to get his full drivers licence. His next step is to look for work. In the short term, he’s interested in working as a driver for a freight company. In the longer term, he wants to be a social worker and help others.  

“Because of the way I grew up, I can identify troubled kids. Everyone says I’d be an excellent case manager. That’s one of my targets – I want to be able to help troubled youth. I think I would have a lot to offer, because of the things I’ve been through.”  

Vicky says that while the Mission has supported Mack at each step in his journey over the last year, he has done the work himself: “He is proactive and he makes it work. The Mission’s role has really been about connection – just listening, supporting, and welcoming him into the whānau.” 

*not his real name.  

Kelly’s story – finding her feet in Auckland

Kelly and her children had been living in the East Cape with her Mum who was unwell so that Kelly could care for her.  Very sadly her Mum passed away last year.  With no other option, when Kelly was offered emergency housing by Kainga Ora in Auckland she bravely relocated her whānau to avoid becoming homeless.

With no family or friends in Auckland, Kelly was alone without support.

After arriving in Auckland, Kelly heard about the Mission and knew she could count on our support at such a challenging time.  She got in touch with our Food Security team who quickly helped her and her children with food. The team also organised clothing for the children as Kelly did not have the means to buy items they needed.

With your support, each winter the Mission helps distribute food to fed thousands of hungry bellies. Please consider donating so that families like Kelly’s can access enough good quality food to make sure they and their children aren’t left hungry as the days get colder.

Kelly says “I found solace in the Auckland City Mission. Not only food was given when hungry, or clothes given when it was cold or the children grew, the warmth, kindness, and right direction by the staff at Auckland City Mission that undoubtedly has helped us a great deal. I am forever grateful.”

Through phone consultations and during brief visits to pick up food Kelly connected with many Mission staff and they soon became a source of strength and support when she needed it the most. The team were encouraged with Kelly’s optimism and motivation to improve life for her young whānau.

In one conversation with Kelly told one our team how she wanted to find a job.  They connected Kelly with an agency that supports people in challenging circumstances seeking employment and as soon as her children were settled in school and day care, Kelly began to look for a job.

Kelly has now secured a permanent part-time job and has now turned her focus to get out of emergency accommodation so her children can have a stable home.

Kelly still visits the Mission occasionally when weekly costs mean she needs some extra support with food but is confident that she won’t need our food support in the long-term.   She is already well on her way to finding her feet in Auckland.

You can help support others like Kelly by donating to the Mission’s Winter Appeal.  Funds raised will go towards making sure food parcels are packed with nutritious ingredients to help keep bellies full this winter. Donate today.

Sam and Irene - Refugee couple became homeless on the streets of Auckland

“When I think back to all of this, my only feeling is that at that time we were in despair and helplessness, and each of our struggles would bring new disasters.”

Sam and Irene are refugees who fled to New Zealand three years ago, due to an unsafe political situation in their home country. To escape, they travelled thousands of kilometres to New Zealand but without a support network, a stable roof over their heads, or money to live on, life was difficult.

After arriving in New Zealand and awaiting their refugee status to be confirmed, Irene had to undergo an operation – leaving them with thousands of dollars of debt to our medical system. Combined with their lack of English, this debt meant they weren’t able to connect with friends, family – leaving them feeling incredibly isolated.

It also left Sam and Irene homeless on the streets of Auckland. Although Sam quickly found a night job, they had no transportation, and Sam had to walk the 17 kilometres to and from the factory where his job was located. Having no other choice due to health and visa issues, his wife walked with him and waited in a fast-food outlet for the duration of his shift without being able to afford even a drink.

The couple lived in this way for an entire week – sleeping between the fast-food outlet and the local library – until the first paycheck came through. With this paycheck and a small overdraft, they rented a car to enable Sam to commute, and to give them both a place to sleep. Despite being unable to use the air conditioning for fear of wasting petrol, it was a relief to have the car to go back to at the end of each day.

Sam knew they needed help and wrote an impassioned email to the Mission.

The Mission’s Street to Home Team Leader Lisa has been working with Sam and Irene since the beginning. She recalls that when she first met the couple it was clear this was not about whether we could help – we had to help. They were tired and cold, and having some time with a friendly welcoming face was almost completely overwhelming for them.

Lisa says that what came across deeply was that despite everything they had experienced, they were full of grit and determination. Survival was the only option. They were prepared to work as hard as they had to, to reach their end point. Lisa and the team worked out small but immediate steps they could take to keep Sam and Irene’s little flame of hope going.

Fortunately, Lisa and her team immediately found the couple a Ministry of Housing and Urban Development funded motel. One of the Mission’s Calder Health Centre outreach nurses then offered post operative assistance to Irene, facilitating her receiving antibiotics for an infection, as well as new dressings and pain relief. The Mission team were also able to quickly get them some new, warmer clothing, and coats, and provide kai.

In our past catastrophic life, the Mission’s appearance is one of the few lucky things we have encountered.”

As soon as Sam and Irene were settled, they began to explore English classes as they knew this would be key to employment. They have managed to secure places at AUT for the new academic year, following on from completing some basic English entrance exams. In the meantime, through working with a Mission housing partner, the couple were offered a two-bedroom home in Wiri.  They also began the immigration process to bring their son to live with them, supported by their local MP.

Though there is still a way to go, things are looking up.  The couple are now contributing to their new homeland with both of them now working at their local supermarket.

“Because of what the Mission has done we have a new home in this city so far away from our homeland. We can feel that life seems to have just begun, and that everything is full of hope.”

Scarlett - everyone deserves a Christmas

“It’s a time of year when you can forget everything else going on in the world and be thankful that you’ve got each other.”

Scarlett* knows all too well how the Mission can help bring Christmas to a family who could otherwise be hungry. Four years ago, a cancer diagnosis meant that Scarlett had to leave her job to look after her health. Her husband of 24 years did the same, to help with her recovery and care for their family when Scarlett was too unwell to share that responsibility.

With a big family to support – five children and two young grandchildren – the transition from two stable incomes to living on the benefit was challenging. After rent and bills were paid, any remaining money went towards petrol– often leaving little for food and essential household goods.

This is what led the family to the Auckland City Mission and thanks to you we were able to help.
Scarlett says receiving food parcels without judgement was hugely important. It meant each member of the family could have three nutritious meals a day at a time when money didn’t stretch that far.

Over the latter part of this year, the Mission has again seen the demand for food increase significantly, since the rise in alert levels back in August. At the time of writing we are providing more than 1,600 food parcels a week, and at times in the last few months that has been as high as 2,000 a week. The Mission knows that this need will only continue, if not increase even more over the coming months as the ripple effects of an extended lockdown begin to be felt.

Food parcels aren’t the only support Scarlett has received from the Mission. A huge fan of the Christmas season, she goes so far as to put her tree up on November 1st. She says though that Christmas became difficult once the family relied on the benefit.

“For me, it’s a time of year when you can forget everything else going on in the world and be thankful that you’ve got each other. It’s a real feel-good time. When things started going bad, I felt guilty that I couldn’t get my kids what they deserve.

With the Mission’s support over the past few years, she has kept the magic of Christmas alive for her family. As part of the Mission’s support for families at Christmas, people can collect gifts for children along with their food. With a young daughter and little grandchildren to buy for, Scarlett’s income doesn’t stretch far enough to buy gifts. So, in recent years, she turned to the Mission so the children in her family each had a special gift under the tree to open on Christmas morning.

In 2020 with your help, the Mission provided over 30,000 Christmas gifts for tamariki across Auckland and with the challenges that lockdowns bring we are expecting that number again this year. Thanks to your generosity the team will be ready to bring Christmas magic to thousands of Aucklanders once more.

“Being able to receive help from the Mission was huge for me. The team went all out – gifting presents for all the kids, including my two grandkids, and daughter who was eight at the time. To see their joy and excitement made everything better.”

Scarlett says the Mission’s support meant that the family could be together and enjoy each other’s company. Without the stress of not enough food or any presents for the children, Christmas remained a special day for Scarlett and her family.

In the last year, Scarlett’s health has improved, although she will face complications from her illness for the rest of her life. And, despite all the hurdles she has faced and will continue to face, I am so heartened by her incredibly positive outlook.

Scarlett channels her creativity to keep busy and to save money. She has begun to grow her own vegetables, making planter boxes out of free pallets she finds on the curbside in industrial estates. She’s particularly proud of her tomato and zucchini crops. She is also growing fruit.

This year, with improved health, she is determined to make all of her Christmas presents – with homemade candles for the girls, and hand-sewn clothes for the boys.

Scarlett acknowledges that the family will still need support from the Mission from time to time and says she will be calling on the Mission to help her provide enough food over the festive season. But having the energy and time to craft gifts for her children this year is a big step forward for Scarlett in her recovery process.

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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food parcels distributed to families & individuals in greatest need*


health consultations at Calder Health Centre*


drug and alcohol