Everyone finds something offensive nowadays. Some people get offended by a Facebook comment. Some people get offended by a YouTube video. Some people get offended by a letter to the editor in the Sunday Star Times and subsequently write a reply. Some people get offended by a man named Gazza from Tokoroa expressing his perceivably bigoted opinions on open-line talkback. Some people get offended by a woman breastfeeding her baby in a local Cafe.
Whilst I consider myself relatively thick-skinned I am one to find something that offends me too every once and a while. Today I am offended. I am offended by a startling new statistic and the apparent willingness of our nation to just accept this statistic as the new normal and carry on with our individual lives. That cannot be tolerated anymore, because this statistic is just shameful.
The Salvation Army, a charity which has led so many causes in fighting poverty across our country’s many cities, towns and communities has released startling new statistics which are deeply disturbing and above all telling. Upon reading them I am left with few words but many, many internal thoughts, most blatantly; “how the actual hell did we end up like this?”.
Everyone knows the statistic “1 in 4 children in poverty”. In my opinion this line has been repeated too much without anything really being done. That statistic is now memorable. It’s part of the common knowledge of our people and easily repeated by anyone. There was a time when that statistic was new and mindblowing. But it has become normalised.
Nearly half of all homeless people in our country’s largest city of Auckland are under the age of 16. That’s everyone from an infant to adolescent. That is the new statistic, released by the Salvation Army, which I find difficult to stomach – and even more so difficult to tolerate.
I consider myself and our household a somewhat charitable group. I offer my spare change to the buskers outside the Newtown New World or the charity boxes in our local businesses. Most times we shop we pick out a few items to give to the food bank. We donate all of our clothes including pants, shirts and jackets to St Vinnies or the Salvation Army.
It kills me to know this is barely making a dent in our country’s poverty epidemic.
These homeless children do not even have a imperfect state home to go to. They have nothing – they don’t even have a chance. This is something that is bad for all of us. This is something that will cost all of us. This is something we know, whether we like the fact or not, that leads to inner city and suburban crime.
The homelessness of children and teenagers can not be tolerated in 21st century New Zealand. I know we are a better country to sit back and let this happen and let this, like the “1 in 4” mantra become the new normal.
There isn’t a justification for children without homes. The reason for children living cold and malnourished on the streets in a 21st century, in a economically advanced country, simply does not exist. There is no defending it.
With that said, the Auckland mayoral election is on the horizon. It’s still little less than a year out, but already the candidates are lining up. Phil Goff is set to make his announcement this month. It should be a requirement for anyone seeking to become the leader of our country’s biggest city to outline their plan to combat the homelessness of under 16s.
The Salvation Army’s key recommendations for combating youth homelessness:
- Increase Auckland’s social housing supply by 1000 houses a year for 10 years
- Improve access to the Ministry of Development for those with urgent needs
- Create policies to ensure Auckland has affordable housing in the future
- Increase funding for emergency housing.