Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How we see things.

Photo by Daniel Brown.

What we value
I have had a couple of reasons to question and reflect on what we value.  The Dunedin Night Shelter Trust is very busy trying to raise money so that we can purchase the buildings we currently rent.  The number of bed nights increased by 46% last year. We have the police, social work agencies and the hospital refer people to us. We are the only providers of emergency accommodation in town. We also have transitional housing for men fresh out of prison wanting to make a change.  Our work would be much more self-sufficient, more secure and more able to develop if we owned our buildings. Because of this we have been lifting our profile, asking for donations and canvassing as many people as we can. We want to be secure in offering a roof, food and a bed to people who have run out of options in Dunedin. As I have worked on this I have encountered three things.
(a) I read that the Government subsidised a flash golf tournament run in a tourist town about three hours drive from Dunedin. The amount of money ran to around two million dollars from memory.  They have helped this event for the last three years.  We don’t receive any central government funding, though their agencies (police, hospital, mental health teams, WINZ etc.) are pleased to send people to us. I find myself wondering, ”Just a fraction of what they are giving for golf would buy our night shelter so that we can offer a refuge for people.  What do we value?
(b) I read an article about the local SPCA .  I think they were having an influx of cats and volunteers were feeding them. I thought how they often ask for funds and seem to have no trouble getting funds.  Full of envy, I said to myself “I bet they own their facilities!”  The picture of helpless homeless animals being neglected tears at people’s heartstrings and the local SPCA can employ people, house animals and function very well with relative ease.  I admire their work and see them as a necessary part of a caring community, but why is it so hard to raise funds for homeless people?   Somehow we think that the people deserve their plight. Now I can understand why we think that, but I would strongly suggest it is never that simple. There are complex reasons why people end up homeless, and the way we live and run our community life (education, health, family life, individualism, economy) all contribute to their plight.  Whatever the causes of their homelessness, it is not entirely their fault, and as a community we need to sense the need to provide the safety net of emergency shelter. It seems to be easy to be able to do it for animals, why not people?
(c) I had the job of sending letters asking for support from Churches.  I looked up Church websites to get their contact addresses. One Church was raising two million dollars to refurbish their old church building! Now I suspect that has something to do with new regulations relating to earthquake strengthening that have come in after the Christchurch earthquake… but two million? ....What would Jesus do? Our local church is raising funds and spending millions on refurbishing their historic building. On a good Sunday 25 people might attend Church. There are two worship centres.  Again, what would Jesus do? The sad thing is that I sent out around 50 letters to Church congregations seeking some help. I may be pleasantly surprised, but I suspect that nearly all will think there are more important things to raise money for than “Emergency accommodation for people” after all, as one lady at church told me, “It’s their lifestyle choices” that cause the problem.

And Jesus wept.

Indifference, by GA Studdert Kennedy

When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, (or Dunedin - or your town) they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do,’
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.

No comments: