Our People reach out to city’s homeless

Vicky Tristram, left, and Eve Taylor have started a group that offers practical help to the homeless.

A group called Our People from Stillwater is reaching out to homeless people in Auckland city, providing practical help and a caring presence on the street.

Like many good projects, this one began “over a couple of wines” shared by friends Eve Taylor and Vicky Tristram.

The pair began by putting backpacks together, with donations from their friends, family and neighbours: the backpacks contain a sleeping bag, blanket, beanies, toiletries – a range of things that people sleeping rough may need.

Donations flowed in thick and fast, assisted by a post on the Stillwater facebook page.

Three weeks ago, Eve (who Vicky describes as “an angel”) and her two children aged 15 and eight, walked up Queen Street, offering the backpacks to people sleeping there. They also provided a lunch pack of nutritious and mostly home made food including sandwiches made by Eve.

Eve says it was an emotional experience. “The disconnect between the homeless and the homed is a really bad state of affairs,” she says. “A lot of people want to help but don’t know what to do because the problem is so huge. What I found is that as a community, it doesn’t matter how small, you can do something as a collective. It means being prepared to go out there, meet the people and build up trust. I want my children to grow up in a world where people care and help each other. We have to get back to basics as a society and look after each other.”

Every Friday night, over a few more wines, more backpacks and food packages are put together in Eve’s home. Since they started their own facebook page, Our People, donations have come in from the wider Hibiscus Coast community as well as the North Shore and Waitoki School.

“People dropped off backpacks already full including things like diaries and pens and can openers – a lot of thought and care had gone in.”

The backpacks are handed out each Saturday to a wide range of people – Eve says they include teenagers and the elderly. One man had just come out of hospital after a prostate operation and was so thin he could put his hands around his thighs.

“They go for the food and water first,” Eve says. “It’s heartbreaking to see the level of hunger.”

Vicky says that people might say they are band-aiding the problem but that it’s important to let people know someone cares in what can be a dehumanising environment. “If they can clean up and have a better sleep it gives them space to think about the next step in their lives instead of simply getting through, day after day.”

“We are often asked if we’re from a church group or agency and they’re surprised to find that we’re just from a small community that wants to help.”

“We really support people like the City Mission but we wanted to get to know these people and do our bit in our own way,” Eve says.

What is particularly needed are backpacks in good condition, sleeping bags, towels, socks, underwear, beanies and winter jackets and coats as well as toiletries. A list of items can be found on the Our People facebook page. Eve and Vicky can also pick up items if you can’t deliver them to Stillwater – phone Vicky, 021 295 9987 or Eve, 027 412 5727.


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