Auckland City Mission's HomeGround tenant Kevin wearing a hat.

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Would you walk 17kms a day to meet your essential needs? Kevin did.

Kevin (Rongowhakaata) was born in the 60’s and spent much of his younger life in the great outdoors around Gisborne and later the Waikato.

His large extended family worked on the land planting grapes, farming and working with horses.  He has fond memories of cows being milked and playing in the shearing shed.

At the age of 11 Kevin and some of his family moved to the Waikato to look for better employment opportunities.

“It was a scary time for me – I remember being in the back of the Morris 1100 and watching the hills and familiar countryside disappear – I was leaving whenua” shared Kevin.

Kevin received a grant to attend a Māori boarding school for boys.  In the holidays he worked at a horse stable and would help out at his Mum’s fish and chips shops.

On finishing school, having completed School Certificate (NCEA level 1 in today’s terms) he enjoyed working on the land once again, before becoming a tutor at the local Polytechnic and working for Government departments.

Kevin was happily married with three children when tragedy happened.  His wife was killed in a road accident.  His children were all under the age of 9.

“My beautiful wife was a wonderful person, companion and mother.  She was outgoing and loved life.  Our world just stopped.”

“The emotional pressure on myself and the children was so hard – I had to keep going and focus on my children and their education – that’s what my wife would have wanted,” said Kevin.

While Kevin concentrated on providing for his family, he was also battling with his own emotional issues, and the grief and the trauma of losing his wife.

Kevin held it together until his children were old enough to stand on their own two feet.  But in 2006 life just became too much – he was overwhelmed by grief and anxiety.  He made the conscious decision to walk away from everything.  He found himself living on the streets of Auckland.

He moved around a lot finding places to sleep, particularly as the seasons changed.  He would build huts where he could in parks and slept on cardboard to try and hold back the cold from the concrete.  He made friends with other people living on the streets and they became his family.  He never felt unsafe on the streets.

He occasionally picked up casual work, but would often busk to buy food, which he would also share with his street friends.

“While I busked to survive, I was also there to make people see me.  To know that I existed.  But sometimes people made me feel like I didn’t deserve any more than I had.  I had people spit at me and verbally abuse me.”

“I walked a lot.  I would walk to find medical support – when you are unwell on the streets, your health can decline very quickly.  I would walk to look for places to wash, which could be very difficult to find.  I would walk to the Mission for a warm meal.  I would walk to try and find work.  I would walk to keep in touch with friends on the street – you need friends, even when you are living on the street, otherwise it gets incredibly lonely and isolating” Kevin shared.

In 2001 Kevin was invited to join the Mission’s Street Guardian program where he would spend a day a week in the community working alongside other agencies to dig, plant, week, build and nurture conservation projects.

“I really felt like part of the Mission, being able to use my skills and feel useful” said Kevin.

As he got older, Kevin was finding it harder to stay healthy on the streets, so he was very happy when in 2022 he was offered an apartment at HomeGround.

“My apartment was a gift, but it took a while to adjust after 15 years on the streets.  I felt closed in as it had been so long since I had had walls around me.  Those who were my family on the street look at me differently now and I do miss them.  But I now have my Mission family and friends, we are a community in the apartments”.

“I still do a lot of walking, but I don’t need to walk as far as when I was living on the streets as many of the services I need are now right here at HomeGround” shared Kevin.

Auckland City Mission's HomeGround tenant Kevin on stairs. Auckland City Mission's HomeGround tenant Kevin working. Auckland City Mission's HomeGround tenant Kevin smiling.

Keep up to date with our e-Newsletter