Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sleeping rough.

Me waking up.
Taken while I was asleep. The politician is in the cardboard box behind me, sheer luxury.
Our lounge before our horde of guests came. It was cold!
John LeBrun, me and David Clark MP 
A photo somebody took of me preaching at Knox Church on April 6th. Perhaps my last sermon.
Sleeping Rough experience
My daughter works for the Dominican Sisters in NZ and they have donated $1000 toward the Dunedin Night Shelter campaign to purchase our buildings in Dunedin. She sent this report out to the Sisters of our night of sleeping rough in the centre of town.

Dunedin Night Shelter Trust – Octagon Adventures
The royal couple weren’t the only ones to spend time in the Dunedin Octagon on Sunday, 13th April 2014. My father, David Brown (middle in the above photo) along with John Le Brun (left), both trustees of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust, and David Clark MP (right), spent Sunday night in the Octagon to increase the profile of the campaign to raise funds for the purchase of the present buildings of the Dunedin Night Shelter. The campaign is called “Eat the Elephant!” with the price tag on the buildings as the Night Shelter’s elephant – to be eaten “One Bite” at a time! The present buildings are ideal providing a big enough space for a good-sized Night Shelter, providing short term emergency accommodation for men, as well as the Phoenix Lodge which is the first home for ex-prisoners trying to make a positive adjustment to a better life. The need for both of these aspects of the Night Shelter’s work is increasing, with a 46% increase in the last year.
Sunday night was VERY COLD and WINDY, with even my father’s heavy toolbox being tossed in the wind! The news that the NZ Dominican Sisters had “taken a bite” by donating $1,000 was a good encouragement for surviving the wind and the cold! They also had a good crowd of visitors over the night, including Judith Anne and Father Kevin Toomey, and even managed some sleep amongst it all. David Clark, being the Member of Parliament, got the fridge box to sleep in and hence managed to sleep the best of the three! The Otago Daily Times promoted the event the week prior, with the radio station Classic Hits interviewing them after they survived the night. For a night they experienced a wee bit of what the homeless do – vulnerability and exposure to the elements. They are pleased with the publicity and feel like there is a crowd of people behind the work.                                                                                                                                     ~ Angela McMorran             It is a good summary of what we were doing but in fact there were four of us who spent the night there. Keiran read about it on facebook, liked our cause and joined us for the night. He was an interesting guy. You reached out to shake his hand and he would explain - "I don't shake hands, I'll give you a hug though." It was refreshing. But I enjoyed the guests....
Guests visiting
We set up a tarpaulin to protect us from the wind and a few picnic chairs. We had various guests call in and chat and it turned out to be a very social night. Friends called by to chat. I had one guy call in and he declared that I needed a scarf and that he would bring one. He disappeared and did not return for a long time. I was beginning to think he had forgotten me but when he did return he had the scarf, his wife and some food his wife had prepared. Another woman friend had texted me concerned that it was too cold to sleep out. She decided to visit and was simply delightful company joining in the conversation before cycling off again. At one stage I heard a voice call my name and a young guy from our drop-in centre came. He wanted to tell me he had participated in a "three peaks" race that day. It is a race that takes the runners up three mountains (big hills) on the outskirts of Dunedin. The run is about 26k long and quite exhausting. He was proud of himself and I was proud of him. He had come a long way in the years I had known him. It was nice that he had seized the opportunity to come and catch up with me. Another man came with hot chocolates and stayed to chat. At one stage there was a group of about eight guys just chatting and talking about community issues, life and "stuff."  I really enjoyed the discussion, quite blunt and honest, and yet full of insight and wisdom born of life experiences. I thought later that in my circles we men seldom get time to "chew the fat" in that way. We have meetings for a purpose and often do not have free time to really pursue subjects. During the night with various people I discussed theology, politics, homelessness, fitness, life changes, unemployment and finance. I enjoyed the discussions of the night, there is nothing like chatting with good people and widening your experience of life as you learn of their views and experiences.
Sleeping rough means rough sleeping.
Sometime after 11 p.m. we crawled into our sleeping bags and attempted to sleep. The bar across the street cranked up the music; street cleaners came with their machines; it was virtually daylight with all the street lights; trucks collected rubbish; cars drove past and the cold wind blew. I did get some sleep but three of us got up about 5 a.m. and went to the 24 hour shop for coffee and further conversation.  If I was homeless I would certainly find a quieter, less exposed and darker spot to sleep rough in. It was a new experience in life.... we have one committee member who is already suggesting that it be an annual event. 

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