When it comes to wellbeing, it is widely accepted that there is no health without mental health – but actually there is no health or mental health without housing. Shelter is one of the most basic human needs, and housing is a human right.
Over the past few years we have been reminded of the fact the people we work with die much younger, with 16 of our clients passing away, predominantly from chronic illness due to long-term unmet health needs and unmanaged health issues. Eventually poor health catches up with everyone – and in our case, it is often after people are happily housed, out of homelessness and in their own home.
It is our team that is there when a serious diagnosis is provided by medical staff; we stay close, take people to their appointments for treatment and support them to make their plans for saying goodbye. We’re privileged to help people achieve what they want to do at this time, which often involves reconnecting with and saying goodbye to whānau.
One gentleman in his 60s had a life-long dream to return to his ancestral land, and he’s resting there now. Another young man in his 40s had a long illness and passed away in hospital. Another, Sam, was one of the first people we supported from the street into a home of his own, back in 2015. We were honoured to carry Sam’s casket to the vehicle that would transport him to the family’s Kauangaroa Marae, near Whanganui, for his tangi. You can read Sam’s eulogy, beautifully written by our friend Denise Irvine.
But the fact is, we must do better. In 2020, we will continue to use our research, data and evidence to influence changes in the system; changes that could make warm, dry housing a powerful health intervention, proven to prevent people from becoming chronically unwell, and setting them up to enjoy longer, healthier and happier lives.
As we start looking back on 2019, we humbly acknowledge the characters who touched our lives who are sadly no longer with us today. You will always be with us in memory and spirit, and you inspire and motivate us to continue working together to deliver on our collective promise to make homelessness in Aotearoa rare, brief and non-recurring.
Haere e te hunga kua whetūrangitia
Haere ki tua o te ārai
Haere, okioki mai rā