They say home is where the heart is, but if your heart is in a specimen jar at the medical school you may prefer to sleep in your car.
There has been much in the news lately about the plight of the homeless. It is a sad indictment of all of us who call ourselves New Zealanders that in a country as fertile, as productive and as under-populated as ours we cannot feed and shelter those, no matter how useless they may be, that dwell within our shores.
Havana – the populous capital of socialist Cuba that has borne the brunt of US sanctions since the 1960’s – manages to house all of its people, yet in Auckland while some park their cars in warm dry sheds and lay down their weary heads in double glazed air conditioned luxury, others kip rough in cardboard boxes. Until they get moved along.
Long before the elaborate palaces of modern day western civilization the African found shelter in his hut, the North American Indian in his wigwam and the Eskimo in his igloo. The Mongolian enjoys long life and withstands the icy winds of the steppes in a yurt. Traditionally men have built their shelters from materials that were ready at hand. Expert help required was minimal and there was/is no need for an elaborate consenting process. Ask an Eskimo what it cost for his igloo’s building consent he won’t know what you are talking about, even if you ask in Inuit
It is not so long ago in our own history that a nikau whare, built with a slasher and held together with flax was considered an adequate dwelling. My own humble shack is not so far removed from such simplicity. And I like it all the more for that. However low cost whare building materials are scarce these days. Totara and tea tree, ponga and palm are in short supply in the city. Consequently cardboard and plastic are the building materials of choice for today’s homeless nomad.
I have been homeless myself. As a traveling man I was of no fixed abode, adrift with no consistent country in an unstable world. The entirety of my worldly goods and chattels was not an intolerable burden on my back. There is a kind of freedom in this type of homelessness and for the most part I enjoyed it. But I chose, for a time, to live that way. And it is the choosing that makes all the difference. Certainly homelessness is a young mans game. No one in their right mind would want to be homeless with a wife and children. Apart from other considerations they are far too heavy and completely the wrong shape to fit into a backpack.
Somehow over time our expectations have exceeded our means. The great grandchildren of hardy pioneers are today not satisfied without insulation, air conditioning, a limitless supply of electricity, hot and cold running water and a broadband connection. If it requires a mortgage that will take several lifetimes to repay, in these later days if the credit rating is adequate it presents no philosophical or moral problem to prospective property purchasers. Strangely the street-dwelling homeless offend the sensibilities of such as these. There are calls for these sad cases to be moved along but few are able to suggest where they might be moved along to.
Consistent with the National party policy of fixing problems by throwing money at them, Paula Bennett’s solution is to give homeless Aucklanders a payment of five grand if they bugger off to the provinces. With such affluence I’m sure the relocated homeless will be able to upgrade their cardboard box to a packing crate. But where are they supposed to put it? Do they need Council consent for the crate and if so will Paula’s five grand cover it? I cannot envision too many property owners around here sacrificing good grazing land to instead farm Auckland’s homeless. With the exception of retirement villages and graveyards there is little profit in farming people. Like ostriches the works are not geared to process them.
Those that do succumb to the state bribe and move elsewhere may simply find themselves unemployed and destitute in a rural environment. This, depending on personal taste, may or may not be preferable to being unemployed and destitute in the city.
These days I am homeless no more and with the passage of years a place of refuge where I can sit before a fire and store my favourite books has become more important. The urge to retire into my cave and leave a world growing steadily more crazy to its own inadequate devices has becomes stronger. Yet it pays to remember that at last we are all homeless. This world is not a permanent residence. We are only visiting this planet and our stay is short at best.
I have been homeless myself. As a traveling man I was of no fixed abode… There is a kind of freedom in this type of homelessness and for the most part I enjoyed it. But I chose, for a time, to live that way. And it is the choosing that makes all the difference.