Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sleeping out.

The logo the students used for the sleep-out.
Often Dunedin students are stereotyped as hard drinking and irresponsible. It was great seeing various groups just enjoying time together, conversing, playing games and sometimes singing. No alcohol in sight.
I took this at about 3:30 a.m.  Most people hunkered down to sleep. 
It was great that no strong wind was blowing... still chilly to sleep though.

This is a Radio New Zealand photo of me with David Clark the Dunedin North Member of Parliament.  This was at lunch time on Friday. We both had busy afternoons and changed into much warmer layers of clothing by the time the sleep-out opened. I enjoy his company. 
The Dunedin Night Shelter Trust is working hard to raise enough money to purchase the buildings it currently rents. We need $595,000 and so far have raise around $380,000. We are going public now to the people of Dunedin seeking donations to get us over the line. We have a few Trusts to apply to, but will be relying on the generosity of Dunedin people. The momentum is happening. We are receiving assistance from the local newspapers, some local rich folk are helping us to reach other rich folk and local community leaders are lending their support.

There is a volunteer centre at the Otago University and it is run by a vivacious, articulate and energetic young woman. She took it upon herself to work with us to create a much bigger, higher impact sleep out to raise awareness of the issue and to raise money. She brought together a group of keen university students and we have had 200 people sleeping out in the Octagon, the centre of Dunedin City.  July in Dunedin is the coldest winter month. This year has been a very cold winter so it made the prospect of sleeping out in the centre of town a scary thought. Four of us, two trustees, the local member of parliament and another visitor slept out last year and I can tell you it was freezing, and that was in April. 

This group of students were absolutely amazing. I sat in on their committee meetings and did a little bit of negotiating with the local city council staff and the Cathedral in the centre of the city. The cathedral was only too happy to loan us the use of their kitchen and their toilets. The council staff agreed to us using the Octagon area. When I had a meeting with the Mayor he said he would shout us two "portaloos". (Temporary toilet facilities)  When his staff followed up on that the Portaloo company gave us four at no charge to us or the mayor.  The students in their organising received quite a lot of support from businesses in town.  

So I spent Friday night in the centre of town sleeping out with two hundred students, the local Labour party Member of Parliament, the co-leader of the NZ Green party, two city councillors and my good friend John who is a fellow Night Shelter Trustee.  Buskers, mainly students from the University music department came to entertain, and a magician gave us a great routine.  They had a sleeping bag race, a cardboard shelter building competition and first thing in the morning, Zumba to wake everyone up. Compared to last year it was not as cold and was simply a lot of fun. I helped with the setting up and the cleaning up. It was great mixing with these young people and made me feel younger.  We were interviewed by the local Newspaper, the local TV came and the National Radio program interviewed us and inserted us into their program.  I was also thrilled because members of my chaplaincies visited during the evening. Two Fire engines from the central station paid a visit with some of them giving a donation. They were very warm and affirming. The on duty ambulance crews visited us and between calls spent time there chatting. It was great to have their support. I got an hour or two of questionable sleep, but the sleep deprivation, the friendship and conversation was well worth it. So far the amount raised is in excess of $7000. As well as this the Lions Club from Port Chalmers where we live visited and handed over a $1000 cheque. The mayor opened proceedings and it was noticeable that he said "WE will get there. We will have a night shelter." That is the feel we are getting particularly through this sleep-out. Dunedin City is starting to "own" the Night Shelter cause. Dunedin is starting to take responsibility to help us as a trust to own these buildings. The Students had as their theme, "DunedinhelpingDunedin."  We have our street appeal happening this coming week. We are picking up that theme as well. We will be standing at supermarkets and street corners holding buckets hoping for donations. It is a very busy time, but as my friend John says, "We can see light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a train coming the other way."

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