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A Day in the Life (Of the Auckland City Mission)

July 28, 2019

Linda Murphy

Social Services Sunday     Matthew 25:31-45

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In 1920, 99 years ago Casper Calder an assistant priest here at St Matthew’s started the Auckland City Mission. The 1920s was a time of social change after the Great War had ended in 1918 and with the returned servicemen and women came the pandemic influenza epidemic. Our returning soldiers suffered from what is now diagnosed as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and there was no treatment for this devastating condition. We had no Social Welfare system until 1935. Many in the community were suffering and Casper saw the need.


…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.


2019 sees the Mission still “standing with those in desperate need.” This morning I will share with you the work of the different teams that make up the Mission.


I would like to welcome some of my colleagues who have joined us this morning.


There are eleven different teams at the Mission and I will start with Wilf’s all important Homeless Community Team. This is the team that manages Haeata our dining area serving over 100 meals at breakfast and lunch. Many of you are volunteers in Haeata and it is wonderful to see the volunteers come in each day so many Aucklanders are very generous with their time to the Mission. This team is not just about meals.


Jeanette organises the activities; Monday starts with Choir practice followed by a band practice then Music makers. Tuesday commences with Waiata attended by many Mission staff followed by the well-attended art class run by a wonderful volunteer Clare. Wednesday includes: Clay, Reading and writing concluding with meditation. Thursday we have Kapa haka and Golden Oldies (those over 55). Friday starts with a Quiz followed by carving. Sunday we have a movie. And there is more we have a Drama Club that meets here at St Matts on Monday evening. There is also a group who go out to work in the Community on a Tuesday.


When our meals are being served and eaten there is another team working in Haeata, Brief Intervention. This is a team of 4 key workers who assist our whanau with benefit applications, accommodation and any other need that may present. This team works with whanau for 12 weeks and if need still persists referral to another Mission service is made.


Our Homeless Outreach Support Service HOSS includes a team of three Key Workers and a Mental Health Nurse. They respond to notifications of homelessness from the general public and monitor those we now who are known rough sleepers. This team starts their day at 6am climbing under bridges, checking grave yards and Central Auckland Parks or where ever a rough sleeper maybe.


I would like to share with you some work I did with HOSS a few years back. We had a young man living on Queen St and he had been there for quite some time and was becoming very unwell physically. We monitored him most days often resulting in my taking down one of the Calder Health Centre’s nurse. Eventually Wiremu became so unwell it was decided we needed to get him off the street has he couldn’t physically manage this himself. On the third attempt we were successful thanks to an AT Bus driver who allowed us to park the detox van on the bus stop by the Civic.


Wiremu’s recovery has been remarkable, after a short admission to hospital we made a plan that he would come to the Mission each week for activities and reside at Karetu House in Greenlane. Now Wiremu is very busy working on his fitness and health. We are so proud of what he has achieved for himself and also reinforced to us how important it is to have activities our whanau can connect with while they work through the issues that caused their homelessness, allowing them to move forward.


A very special team that I work with closely is the Elder Service managed by Gerard who has been at the Mission for some years. This service takes referrals from the community and other agencies regarding anyone over the age of 55 who has social issues some are homeless, many are in their own homes and are socially isolated. Gerard, his Key worker and I have worked closely over the last few months supporting three men dying of cancer. While this is often a journey fraught with frustration it is always a privilege to be there to the end. As many of you will be aware some of our funerals are held here at St Matthew’s.


We have recently had a new team added to the wider HOSS group and this is Housing First where our rough sleepers are supported into accommodation and assisted to sustain their tenancies.


Crisis Care supports our community with food deprivation issuing food parcels from Union St and supporting our satellites such as MUMA, Papakura Marae, Clendon Community Centre and St Luke’s Manurewa. This team also offers budgeting services and advocacy for anyone who walks through our doors.


I am based in the Calder Health Centre as an Assessment Professional providing social work for the patients and working very closely with all our other teams. A rough sleeper’s life is shortened by nearly 30 years, so complex health issues arise for our community well before they are 65 and we have a health system organised to assist those over 65. Our doctors, Gerard’s team and I are constantly trying to manoeuvre around these restrictions. Our medical practice has 1600 patients and 75% of them are high risk. This makes us the largest high risk clinic in New Zealand. We have two full time nurses and four doctors who work various days, most days we have two doctors available. We have walk-in clinics five days a week, a Mental Health Practitioner once a week, Hep C Clinic twice a week, Cads Clinics and a podiatrist visits fortnightly.


Out in Avondale there is our Social Detox Unit who look after those with drug and alcohol addiction with ten in-house beds for treatment that usually lasts two weeks with follow up in the community.


In July the Mission took over the management of James Liston Hostel in Freemans Bay. James Liston has recently had a wonderful renovation physically as well as operationally. It is managed by Charlotte and her extended team. As an emergency housing provider our whanau typically stay there for twelve weeks and move on to permanent housing.


The Mission would not manage without our Distribution Centre. This team provides the thousands of food parcels, clothing and furniture as well as managing our New Beginnings Shops.


All our other teams are assisted by our administration team including our very important Fund raising Team and Homeground who are responsible for the building next door.


The Auckland City Mission in a thousand words. Thank you to my fellow team members for coming this morning and a special thanks to Wiremu.


I will finish with words from Micah:

…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

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