Nicola Young. I was thinking of you yesterday.
I bumped into my friend Arthur, who lives on the streets and we had a chat, including a chat about you and your ideas about regulating the donation of money to people who are homeless. He was talking about his frustrations, about how he’s not engaged in aggravated robbery, he spends time on the streets welcoming people’s support when they recognise his plight and give him koha. To buy food for himself and his mates. To buy a night in a shelter. To buy a shower. To wash his clothes at the laundromat. To do all those kinds of things that people who ask him all kinds of questions about what he uses “their” money for don’t need to even think about.
He said this thing. He said,
“What do they want us to do. Play some drums for them? What’s that going to do? Make it hurt better? What about the people who can’t play instruments. What about those people, don’t they deserve help?”
My God Arthur I wish you didn’t have to come up with justifications like that to do what you do to live.
Arthur was largely raised by his grandfather, who’d been in the Maori Batallion in World War Two, while his mother was part of the Mongrel Mob.
I met Arthur through my friend Gabrielle, who also lives on the streets. She’s one of the most amazing people I know. I always can tell when she’s had a night at a backpackers because she absolutely beams the next day, as if she’s been at a 5-Star resort. She thinks that someone who gives her $2 is an angel. Someone who gives her a winter coat is pretty much the second coming of Jesus.
And I’ve seen the way people glare at her. I’ve seen because one day we were talking and I didn’t have my wallet and she was dying for a smoke. So I started watching passers-by prepared to ask anyone with a smoke if they would spare one. That’s when I saw all the glaring. That’s part of how I know how strong she is to be so gracious about a coin she gets offered.
Gabrielle was a nurse, a geriatric nurse, before she lost her job because her son was hit by a car and she couldn’t hold it together. Her living was made caring for people. And I bet she did a wonderful job, because she even cares for me. You wouldn’t bloody believe it. I’ve known her for a few years now and she can pick up when I’m down. She’ll look at me and ask me if I’m okay. I’ll say Gabrielle, of course I’m okay, don’t ask me that! Once I said to her Okay, yes… I am sad. I am sad about the world.
So she looked at me with this conviction that just stumped me and said, “Girl, you know why you’re feeling pain like that? Because you’re blessed. You’re feeling it because you’re blessed.” Imagine – imagine a nurse like that. Imagine!
She still wears her son’s sneakers, her son who passed away. Do she or Arthur ever use the koha I give them to buy a smoke or a drink? I’d prefer they didn’t, of course. But until I can give them what I really owe them, it. is. absolutely. none. of. my. goddamn. business.
Nicola Young. While you are out begging the Wellington public to support you, whether or not we want or ask for your opinions – do you know the debt we owe these people? Do you know the unfathomable, unthinkable, inconceivable, debt that we owe these people? We owe these people everything we have! Arthur and Gabrielle and everyone who cares for this world and who is left in the cold to be judged for what they do with every dollar they are given to make life bearable for them.
Shame on you for even wanting to fine me for giving anyone money for a night in a hostel. When it’s not even me, not even the people who try to give who you would really be fining. It’s the people who rely on our koha who would pay. Shame, shame, shame. When we owe them so damn much!