During the production process, student Monique van Veen said she heard a “massive spectrum of reasons” why youth ended up homeless; from fleeing violent families to feeling marginalised in smaller towns and drifting to Auckland “to find their people”.
Van Veen said the definition covered a broad spectrum of living arrangements – “everything from literally sleeping on the streets to living in a really unfit, unhealthy home”.
“A house can be unfit through physical violence happening within, or through being damp and mouldy enough to lead to sickness,” she said.
The seven homeless youth interviewed in the documentary had spent nights on footpaths, in cars, and bouncing between acquaintances’ couches and garages.
Not all were living separated from their families, but were considered homeless because of the dire conditions they lived in.
One of the youths interviewed for the video said he had been sleeping in a “mate’s basement”.
“At least I wasn’t alone, considering there were spiders and rats down there as well – they made me feel welcome,” he said.
“But sometimes you’re contemplating ‘why should I even be alive right now?'”
The human rights students wanted to raise awareness through their documentary – a theses alternative that Van Veen said “could actually do some good”.
CHA senior programme manager, David Zussman, attended the launch and commented that the well-attended event demonstrated the rising awareness and interest in the increasing homelessness evident throughout New Zealand. It successfully highlighted the marginalisation experienced by young homeless people and provided an insight into some of the amazing individuals working on the front line to try and provide solutions. “It takes a special kind of person and service to be able to truly respond in a way that provides choice and self-determination for young people,” David commented.
A lively panel discussion highlighted the paucity of solutions and laid bare the lack of any coherent strategy or connected system of care. Professor Judy McGregor provided a challenge for the audience in this election year, to provide an audit of all political parties’ housing and homeless policy in respect of human rights.
For more information on human rights and youth homelessness go to ‘Ending Youth Homelessness: A Human Rights Guide’.
“Too often being homeless is considered a personal and moral failing, when it’s actually a structural and political problem” Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing.
Do you want to joint an online group on youth homelessness – access resources, share what is going on around New Zealand: contact David Zussman on DavidZ@communityhousing.org.nz.
The AUT documentary students have set up a Facebook page and are calling on people to sign a petition which will be presented to Parliament by Green MP Marama Davidson.