When you’re homeless, sleeping under the New Zealand flag might just be a final defence.
That’s what Six reckons. She says fewer people would urinate on her when she used the national emblem as her blanket.
Six doesn’t live on the streets any more but she hasn’t forgotten how if feels to fall. To find yourself without a roof, no corner of the world to call your own. She wanted to make sure other people understood what it’s like so she started a community paper about homelessness from the inside.
There’s plenty of desperation in the stories shared but there’s also, above all, a sense of tolerance and humanity. In this video series, the K’ Rd Chronicles, we take to the streets of inner city Auckland and meet the people from Six’s world.
Over eight weeks, as winter sets in, we’ll learn about their struggle to change their lives … and to stay alive.
Six the journalist
Six (yes, that’s her real name) is an overqualified, underemployed, trans-gender journalist with unique insight into one of New Zealand’s most pressing social problems: homelessness. Six herself was homeless for many years. Over the course of this series, she documents the stories of Karangahape Road’s “streeties” for her community newspaper The K' Road Chronicle.
Mickey the Rat
Mickey, a former drug dealer and addict, is now in his 60s. He prefers to be called Mickey the Rat, and, until recently, he lived in a cemetery. But the trajectory of his life might be about to change for the better.
Nicola the Outreach Worker
Nicola is an Outreach worker at Auckland City Mission, an organisation that helps Aucklanders in desperate need. She works at the coalface of homelessness, venturing onto the streets to engage with the city’s most vulnerable people, almost all of whom have slipped through society’s cracks.
Gloria the Sex Worker
Gloria has been homeless since she got out of jail seven months ago. Now, unable to find a job or housing, she lives in a park and sells sex to survive.
The Court of New Beginnings
Homeless people’s brushes with the law often land them in jail. But is there a more humane way to deal with the problem? Judge Tony FitzGerald thinks so. He presides over the Court of New Beginnings, or as it’s more commonly known, The Homeless Court.
Keith the Addict
Keith is a synthetic cannabis addict. He’s been on and off the streets for 14 years. We follow his struggle to find a habitable place to stay. In desperation, he seeks help from Lifewise, a community organisation that helps the homeless.
Ben and his dog Buddy
Can you be homeless and care for a pet? To find out, Six follows Ben, a young man who has a dog called Buddy. Having an animal by his side seems to offer Ben some kind of companionship. But how can he manage to keep caring for Buddy?
Six is burgled
Just when all seems to be going well, Six is burgled. This puts the production of The K' Road Chronicle at risk. While Six struggles with this setback she’s also trying to figure out why Ben is resisting being housed.
No man is an island
Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a fan of wealth and taste.
I've been around K' Road a long, long time. Well at least since 1998.
I am the middle child of English and Scottish descent. I grew up in Hamilton in an average lower working class home with a mum who mummed, a step-father who worked his ass off and two sisters who dedicated their youth to tormenting me.
My first engagement with Karangahape Road was as a fresh faced 90s DINK (Dual Income No Kids).
I was a bullet proof 20-something year old and my partner and I earned above average incomes working for Bay Corporation, based on the corner of Hereford and Hopetoun Streets. Now an apartment block.
I wore cheap suits, white shirts and novelty ties.
We were the wealthy young wankers who threw money around Kenny's Bar and Grill, stocked up on stockings at Rendells Department Store and bought our first home, a humble townhouse in Onehunga for $160k and subsequently sold for more than $400k when we eventually liquidated our relationship.
We bought sex toys from the Pleasure Chest and probably threw them away before figuring out how to use them. We snuck into Staircase and ate pies from the late night bakery outside St Kevins Arcade. We smoked joints at the Las Vegas Strip Club and paid for cabs with loose change.
We rode the economic wave of the 90s to the point of two homes, two BMWs, six figure savings, platinum credit cards, overseas holidays, box seats at Alexandra Park, a kitchen with a beachfront view, a rental in the burbs, and investments I didn't know about in companies I never heard of. I think we may have even owned a unicorn at one point. We bought weed by the ounce, beer by the boat and wine by the vine.
But I digress. This is not that chapter.
This story is a tale of sex, drugs and broken souls.
Same Road. Same face. Different time. Different space.
Somewhere between then and not now, I kinda went mental.
I felt like a victim of my own success. But it was nothing I couldn't destroy.
I was writing adverts for print and broadcast. My work was in demand. Even my employer's rivals requested my copy.
Although I enjoyed professional success my relationship with the partner I loved felt like some sort of business agreement. I wasn't sad or depressed. I didn't feel anything. I felt like a spectator watching my life fade into the future.
Money was just a number on a statement. I felt like a small pointless cog in a large pointless machine. I felt alone in a room full of friends. I took silly risks and pushed my luck to the point of failure. There was no opportunity or achievement too big to blow.
I did stuff I am not proud of. I slept around, a lot. I had dangerous sex. Sex with strangers. I stole, cheated and lied. I drank too much. I built a spare room for my ego. I got stoned - a lot. I beat people up. I got beat up. I threw money around like candy at Christmas. I destroyed friendships, relationships, a career and a reputation. I landed hard on the streets around 2010.
I lost everything. Everything except pride, self respect and dignity. Values can't be confiscated, they can only be abandoned.
I learnt to live light. I decided to live honest. All I had left were my values. But that was enough. And they don't take up a lot of space.
While rough sleeping I completed a post graduate diploma in communications majoring in journalism.
I was awarded the student of the year award by the Waikato Institute of Technology press club and named one of New Zealand's best nonfiction writers by Auckland University Press.
Still rough sleeping. Still can't get a job.
Long story short – I started The K' Road Chronicle street paper. For the street, from the street, by the street.
The K' Road Chronicle is a not for profit, non political, non religious, objective catalogue of characters, catastrophes, commiserations, celebrations and community.
Community, whānau and connections are consistent themes.
As are despair, disparity and desperation.
This is possibly the first time the homeless community has been given an opportunity to tell their own stories.
We do not judge, condemn nor condone.
However, we did cry, quibble and quarrel during production.
Some stories left tears on our cheeks. Some people made us angry and frustrated. Some stories got cut altogether and ethical debates often left production staff stumped.
This series may have never seen light of day without the drive and passion of Naashon Zalk. Naashon and I met at a mutual friend's function more than 18 months ago.
I knew who he was and am a fan of his work with Al Jazeera.
Naashon pretended to know who I am.
Fast forward 12 months and Nash (we're buddies now) and I are chatting about the homeless and a narrative for a series we now call the K' Rd Chronicles.
The K' Rd Chronicles is essentially about community, from the bottom up.
From Roger offering me refuge and respite, to Mickey the Rat's retained relationship with step-daughter Simonne we learn to appreciate the value of whānau. From a non-judgmental judge to hookers sans homes we gain insight into the trials and tribulations of the downtrodden. From DINKs without digs and dogs without bones, black, white or pink, we all deserve homes.
The K' Rd Chronicles is a testament to the human spirit and the people who make a difference to the destitute and deprived every day.
People like Nicola, a skinny, young, blonde, 20-something, white female, social worker from the Auckland City Mission, who actively seeks out homeless and disadvantaged people and offers comfort, compassion and care.
Uwe, a Lifewise volunteer who reminds Work and Income of their legal responsibilities, Te Huia giving back at Merge Cafe, Judge Fitzgerald balancing social justice and all the other people who made small but perfectly proportioned contributions to this production.
This community seldom speaks out, but it is important to listen when they do. Because it is through stories that we expand our world view.
During production I was constantly reminded of the value of whānau, and of being a part of a community. All primates live in social groups for the security of the clan and the protection of the individual.
Being a part of a community comes with an unspoken agreement that you will contribute to the society of which you benefit and in the case of disability, age or incapacity, society will look after you.
I'm reminded of the poem by John Donne that possibly illustrates my point better than I can.
No man is an island entire of self. Each is a part of the continent, attached to the shelf...
...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
It has been a privilege to hear the stories of homelessness from the homeless.
Although my face and brand are all over this series, there was a dedicated and skilled team behind the camera working tirelessly to tell these stories openly and honestly.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this production and all those who offered support, encouragement and enthusiasm.
Thanks NZ on Air.
Thanks Stuff, TopShelf, Mum and every one of you who subscribes to The K' Road Chronicle or gives a fornication about the welfare of your community.