Last weekend Herald on Sunday columnist Paul Little wrote “Sleeping rough a mere party trick” – not only did he get the date of the Big Sleepout wrong, he also managed to ignore the fact that over the years the Lifewise Big Sleepout has helped many people.
One would expect anyone penning for the NZHerald to do their homework, to talk to people – or at the very least to use that wonderful tool known as the internet to research what is happening in, not only Auckland, but nationally and globally to help people who are homeless.
Something that’s important to understand is that we are all only three life changing events away from being homeless.
Homelessness is not typically a choice as some suggest, it is a consequence.
As a participant in this years Big Sleepout I was humbled to hear the stories of homeless people, to hear the stories of those who had lived a significant amount on the street who now have homes to call their own. One story that brought a lump to my throat was from one chap who said he had three choices – jail, mental hospital or death; it made me rethink a few things in my own life, and I’m sure it made other participants think about their own situations.
It was good to see Paul say “As an organisation, Lifewise does many great things to help homeless people directly and practically…” but to end this with “This isn’t one of them.” Seemed hurtful to those who have been helped, those who will be helped and yes, those helping to make a difference by way of sleeping rough.
The Big Sleepout does make a difference, it helps people understand what homelessness is, it garners support for a worthwhile cause, and those who have participated – myself included, do it because we care and want to help make a difference.
To say “Unfortunately, charity these days is nothing unless it’s a media event, and all too often the focus on the event takes all the attention from the charity. It can end up making the problem less visible.” Is in my opinion wrong – charity events need media attention to show what’s happening, how people can help and raise the profile of the activity – charities can’t afford advertising campaigns – any money spent on those is money being used that is better used to help those needing help, whether it’s the homeless, or any other cause.
Media events, media attention are needed to get the message out, to garner support and to educate.
Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming and Briscoes can afford to spend huge sums on advertising to raise awareness of their sales – Lifewise doesn’t have this luxury – they need the help of people such as those who did the Big Sleepout, the ‘celebs’ to use the power, the connections that they have to help bring attention to events such as this.
1) get a new computer that will allow him to access the web to check his facts
2) roll out his sleeping bag next year
3) understand that all those who do their part to help others in the community are doing it because they believe in the cause.