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Homeless at Christmas

October 27, 2016

 

Every day I have the privilege of journeying with whanau (families) who are on the verge of homelessness. It might sound strange to call this a privilege, but it is the only way I can describe that feeling of being present with someone in one of their darkest moments, and offering even the smallest glimmer of light so they can take the next step.

I work in one of the poorest suburbs in Auckland, with a group of people that I refer to as the “hidden homeless”. These are not people living and begging on the streets, as you may imagine. Rather, they are working families or single mothers with children living out of garages, cars, motels or extremely overcrowded and unsafe dwellings.

 

Hidden Homeless

They are hidden because on the surface they seem like any other family, but beneath that surface lies a web of issues that naturally arise from extreme housing deprivation and transience. Adverse health conditions, poor education, family violence and depression are just some of the devastating impacts of trying to survive without access to adequate housing. My job is to respond to families in crisis, find temporary immediate shelter, and advocate for them to find sustainable housing. The journey can be long and stressful, but it is always worth it.

With Christmas looming, I have been reflecting on what it means to celebrate the birth of Christ, in the context of my daily mahi (work). I recently came across a poem written by someone who has experienced homelessness. The words penetrated deep into my heart. I hope it can speak to us all as we prepare to enter the crazy season that is; Christmas.

 

Questions For You and Me

A poem by 'Anonymous'

Stuffed and overflowing stockings hanging by the fireside
Pretty plastic candlelights glowing in the night
Sticky candy canes hanging from pine tree boughs
This all presents questions, I will in this poem pose.

When a little kid with Christmas time coming round
The joyful music, it seemed was the only sound
But really, I wonder now what it all means to me
Is it all about that perfectly shaped and lighted Christmas tree?

Little, sweet baby Jesus sleeping in some straw
It seems to me that someone might notice a little flaw
What is the difference between that dirty man without a home
And the King of Kings that almost all of us must have known?

And tell me what was that message that He gave to you and me
Before His life was ended on that old and lonely tree?
Was it all about just taking care of little, selfish me?
Or is there more here, more for all of us to see?

I asked a lot of questions in this poem this Christmas Eve
I guess this time of year, the cold, and the suffering that I see
Fills my head and heart with old and sad memories
I am hoping that maybe from it all we will not always flee.

Little, sweet baby Jesus sleeping in some straw
It seems to me that someone might notice a little flaw
What is the difference between that dirty man without a home
And the King of Kings that almost all of us must have known?

 

 

Bex Rillstone lives in Mangere, New Zealand with her husband Sam. Bex has a Masters in International Development and is now undergoing further training to become a Social Worker. She works as a family worker assisting those facing homelessness. Bex is also passionate about building relationships with former refugees in her community, and advocating for justice through her writing.

See all previous articles by Bex Rillstone

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