Having suffered from alcoholism in the past, Rasool had been sleeping rough for three years. The only thing that he could rely on was going to his local Salvation Army centre for a coffee, some breakfast, and a shower.
“When I wake up I’ve got a stiff back, the cardboard’s cold, the ground’s cold, it’s more like a shaky feeling when I wake up in the morning.”
Some mornings, John Maeva, a rough sleeper outreach worker from the Waitākere Central Centre, would bring Rasool and the other homeless people in the area a warm cup of coffee to drink, sometimes as early as 5 am. Rasool and John built a relationship during these meetings, as John always has time for a korero (chat).
“It’s lonely, you’ve got no one. You’re empty inside, all your thoughts are gone. So you say to yourself ‘go down to the Salvation Army’.”
Over lockdown, the government announced that all those sleeping rough on the streets be moved into motel rooms and other temporary accommodation, to stop the spread of coronavirus and to ensure everyone had a contained bubble. One morning, John came and collected Rasool and the other rough sleepers, telling them all he had somewhere he could take them.
“John came, he brought us coffee and he said he has a place for us to go. The place looks nice and warm. I don’t have the shivers, I don’t wake up too cold.”
For six weeks, Rasool stayed at a motel in Takapuna, but he still felt isolated from all of the other occupants. That is until he was moved to a transitional housing unit in Avondale. There, Rasool met his ‘homies’, and started to find a family. John would visit regularly with food parcels, to check in and make sure all of the residents were okay.
“This is a rare opportunity for me to be given a place. It’s so amazing and special. To have the support around me is great. I don’t feel alone”
Now, Rasool has his own one-bedroom apartment in Henderson. He relishes waking up in his own space, in a decent bed. Each morning, he has a hot shower and makes a coffee, a luxury compared to where he was this time last year. Rasool continues to volunteer at The Salvation Army, helping with any deliveries that come in, and spending time with the other workers. He still see’s his found family from the transitional housing unit, and John.
“I love having my own place because I can have a shower, make coffee, eat real food and I get to clean my house. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn my life around, and I’m not going to let it go to waste. And it’s thanks to The Salvation Army.”