Richard & Asina's Story
When lockdown was first put in place, they were living in an apartment in Auckland City. Their rent was too high, and without a stable income they were struggling to pay their bills. To avoid accumulating debt, Richard and Asina made the tough decision to move into their car.
“We can’t afford to live where we are, we’re struggling to just meet our basic needs so to avoid being evicted we’ve decided to now take our chances and move into our vehicle.”
The first night sleeping in the car was the worst. They found a deserted carpark in Blockhouse Bay to settle in for the night. It was cold and cramped, and getting to sleep was impossible due to the anxiety they had around their situation.
“Richard’s so tall, I can just fit in the seat and it’s crampy for me so I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for him. I don’t like seeing him like this.”
As New Zealand was in level four lockdown, only the supermarkets were open. Everybody was told to stay in their bubbles, but for Richard and Asina, their bubble was defined by the space within their car. Having to remain in such cramped conditions day and night was demoralising, making them feel helpless.
“The streets are bare, there’s no one around, it’s isolating, it’s a real sense of loneliness and we feel like there’s just us here. Alone.”
One night, Asina walked to the 24 hour public toilet—one that she knows is clean and tidy. As she is looking in the mirror, she sees a sign on the wall offering ‘Shelter, food, coffee, and hot showers at The Salvation Army, Henderson, Waitākere’. The thought of a decent shower excites Asina so much that she runs to the car to tell Richard of her discovery. As it is three o’clock in the morning, Richard is still half asleep, but Asina’s enthusiasm is contagious, and they make their way over to the Waitākere centre as soon as they see the sun rise.
“This is like a blessing, this is exactly what we needed, a shower, and some help”
As Richard and Asina pulled up to the Waitākere Centre, which seemed closed, they could see a man sitting in a white van parked out front in a Salvation Army shirt. Richard goes to speak with him, and comes back to Asina to tell her the mans name is John. John Maeva is a rough sleeper outreach worker from the Waitākere Central Centre, and he knows somewhere that Asina and Richard can stay. Within 30 minutes, John walks Richard and Asina into their temporary home, a motel where others who had nowhere to stay during COVID were housed. Immediately, the weight of their situation is lifted off of their shoulders.
“After six nights of being in the car, this is like the best news ever, it’s like winning lotto, I still can’t believe this is actually happening”
A year on, Richard and Asina have their own three-bedroom home. Richard has a great job in security that he loves, and they are both developing a workshop to give back to those who find themselves in the same difficult situation. These days, the friends they made at the motel come over to their place regularly for dinner.
“The support’s amazing and it’s still there, it never ends. We’re blessed to be part of something that promotes that empowerment and gives people courage and hope that things can be different.”