Tuesday 8 March 2022

Refugee couple 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.”

To find out how you can support Auckland City Mission to help more people like Sam and Irene, click here.

In the last year, generous

people like you have

helped Aucklanders in need...


food parcels distributed to families & individuals in greatest need*


health consultations at Calder Health Centre*


drug and alcohol