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May 22, 2017 | by  | in Opinion |
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Compassion Soup Kitchen

It’s a classic wet, windy Wellington day; your face is numb from the ferocious wind and your spirits are only slightly heightened by your toasty hands from your gloves nana made you last Christmas. Your “trash music” Spotify playlist is booming in your ears as you forget the readings you have to do. As you walk out of Kelburn you see her, looking around anxiously as she grabs her bedding from the boot. As she looks up, your eyes meet, and you see the ingrained fatigue caused by the thought of spending another night driving around to find a place to park that won’t attract too much attention. You bow your head and look the other way as you pass.

The problem of homelessness in New Zealand has slowly gotten worse as the “most developed and socially accepting” century has blossomed. A study by the University of Otago showed that since 2013 one in 100 individuals considered themselves homeless: living in severely crowded houses, motels, boarding houses, in cars, or on the streets. The 2013 New Zealand Census concluded that 41,075 individuals fell under the definition of homeless; that is 1.5% of the overall population. The fear that this problem is not getting better may seem disheartening. However there is always something that we can do: donating, volunteering, or just stopping to listen and understand.

This is where Compassion Soup Kitchen — Te Pūaroha comes in. This organisation has been one of New Zealand’s longest running community groups, aiding people in harsh living conditions for the last 116 years. Based in Te Aro, people are free to come and relax here, with access to computers, internet, and printing three days a week, as well as social workers who provide emotional and health support and help with practical needs such as housing inquiries. Meals are provided from Monday to Friday, with free breakfast and a small $2.00 contribution for dinner. Most importantly, there is no judgment here, but a welcoming environment where understanding and compassion are key in creating the foundation of this organisation.

The Compassion Soup Kitchen’s Te Hā Tangata: Human Library on Homelessness (with support from Kahungunu Whānau Services, Massey University, and the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO) is a beautiful project that provides a platform for the guests of the Compassion Soup Kitchen as the “books” and the public as “readers”. It allows the homeless community to tell their story in attempt to generate understanding and compassion for people in different circumstances than our own. Each story is told in their own words, and far too often these voices and stories aren’t given an opportunity to be heard and appreciated. To find out more jump on the Facebook page: Te Hā Tangata: Human Library on Homelessness.

Their survival relies on donations, and this week is is their biggest fundraiser — their Annual Street Appeal on May 26. They will be on the Kelburn campus, so if there are any coins scattered at the bottom of your bag, maybe reconsider donating them to the Lab. If you’d like to get involved and volunteer, check out the Notices section for more information.

Although it may seem easier to turn the volume up and look the other way, the reality is that “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.”

 

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