This article appeared in our Dunedin Night Shelter newsletter which came out today.
Dave Brown pauses during roof maintenance at the Night Shelter this past week.
RETIRING CHAIRMAN PROUD TO HAVE HELPED MAKE IT HAPPEN
A MIX-UP with staff rosters a couple of years ago became a graphic example of why the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust is needed and the difference it makes, says retiring Trust chairman and founding member Dave Brown. Fourteen years after the Trust was established, and after six years as its chairman, Mr Brown has stepped down from what has been a demanding and vital role in our city. In 2003, Mr Brown and several others gathered to discuss the need for emergency accommodation. At the time, Mr Brown was the minister at an inner-city church that ran a drop-in centre where many of the city’s more vulnerable people gathered on Friday evenings. A public meeting was organized and 50 people turned up to hear from social workers and others about the need in Dunedin. The Trust was born from that gathering. Mr Brown says two of the key challenges have been convincing people of the need and helping people understand that need. “When we first started collecting on the streets people would say ‘Why do we need a night shelter in Dunedin?’ or ‘They deserve to be homeless’,” Mr Brown recalls. “We have spent many hours talking to groups, convincing people of the need. I have found people are unaware of the changes in society that lead to many people living uncertain and fragile existences. We are often protected by our privilege.” He says the Trust has been very successful in telling its story and helping people understand the need. “Things like the sleep-outs and the publicity surrounding the fundraising to purchase the Shelter helped build a groundswell of awareness and support in Dunedin.” A mix-up a couple of years ago, which meant no Trust staff members turned up to open the Shelter one evening, reinforced for Mr Brown the enormous value of the work of the Trust. “I had a phone call at home, so my wife and I came in an hour or more late to open the shelter,” he says. “An ambulance arrived at the shelter the same time we did. It was a freezing cold winter night and one elderly client had fainted while waiting. “There were six people waiting, the youngest an 18-year-old woman, the oldest a 70-plus-year-old man. “I opened up the shelter, turned on the heater and boiled the jug for a cup of tea for all. The elderly man came right, and others started to warm up. A caring staff member, hearing of the problem came in and began getting meals ready. “As I reflected on the fact that here were six people who for various reasons were out in the cold on a winter’s night in Dunedin, I felt pleased to be able to open the door for them to warm hospitality, food and a bed. “I felt proud to be part of the group who made it all happen.” Mr Brown, who has retired from the Church but still works part-time as a workplace chaplain, is now stepping down from his work with the Trust. But he says there are certainly still needs to be met. “People are moving south hoping to get affordable accommodation in Dunedin. So, while Dunedin does not have the massive homelessness issues other cities have, the problem seems to be drifting south. Our numbers of homeless and vulnerable people are increasing.” (To read the full interview with Dave Brown, detailing how the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust got started, how it developed, what it has achieved, why he is stepping down and what still needs to be done, go to the Trust’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DunedinNightShelter/ )