I was sent a copy of this letter last week, which had been sent to the Prime Minister. I love the fact that here was somebody who just didn’t walk past the poor. It’s a modern version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, one of my favourite parables.
I am glad to hear you are trying to deal with homelessness. I would like to tell you a true story of a person without a home.
I am 80 years old. Late December 2019 when I was down at the Bush Inn here in Christchurch there was a homeless man begging. I admired his dog and gave him $2.00. As I walked away, I asked him if he had a benefit. He said “no”.
I said “Why not?” He said “My birth certificate was burnt in a fire and it costs $26.00 to get a birth certificate and you need a birth certificate to get a benefit. And at the moment I am just trying to get some money for a bed for tonight.” I said “Can’t WINZ help you?” He said “I got angry at WINZ and they have banned me from going there”.
I said “Give me your full name, date and place of birth and your parents’ names”. I went home, called Births Deaths and Marriages, told them the story, asked them to send me his birth certificate and told them I would pay for it. After about an hour of comings and goings they agreed. It cost $33.00 plus a courier fee of $5.00.
I went back to the Bush Inn to tell the young man I had ordered his birth certificate for him but he had gone. I rang the City Mission who said they knew him.
Then I thought. He would need a Bank account and if he didn’t have one what was the criteria for getting one? My Bank told me they needed proof of identity, a passport or a driver’s licence, proof of an address which had to be a letter addressed to the potential customer from the IRD or a Bank and that letter could be no more than 6 months old. He had to have to have a Bank account to get the Benefit money. Well as he was homeless and if his driver’s licence was also destroyed in the fire, he was out of luck there too.
Then I thought again. (All this thinking took time!) If he got a benefit, he would have to go for job interviews and, as I understand, if the unemployed don’t go, they lose their benefit. Do you know how much a bus ticket costs these days? They are not cheap. So, I went into the Bus Exchange and asked for a Bus Card for him in his name. They needed proof of identity which meant going back home for his birth certificate and then back to the Bus Exchange; they looked at it and issued a card in his name. That card cost $10.00. I loaded it with $20.00.
Then I thought again! If that original birth certificate was ever lost, he would be back to square one. So, I got certified copies of his birth certificate.
Then I took it all to the City Mission and, hopefully, they gave it to him. Now I don’t know what happened and I don’t want to. I am just too old. But no wonder there are so many homeless people these days. If a society only emphasises technology and systems, a whole group of people fall through the gaps. We, and our Government, must look after all our people in need. After the Muslim massacre last March, you said “They are us”. Jacinda, the homeless are too.