When I came to the shelter I was offered a bed. I did not realise that this meant a bed for life. Yes I am leaving the shelter tomorrow but I have a bed for life. I feel like my life has been saved.

We have another guest leaving the shelter tomorrow permanently. He has secured a supported living environment where he will be safe for many years to come, the rest of his life. Steve is a Maori male 58 years of age. Steve has suffered significant head injuries for which he had been receiving ACC payments. Steve also has very limited use of one arm due to another injury. Alongside this Steve has been diagnosed with Korsokophs.

This is Steve’s story, as told by him: (Steve – Alias)

I was on ACC payments because of my head injury. I was managing okay, and then they wanted me to do a computer course which I did. They said I did well on my course so they told me I can’t be on ACC anymore and I was put on Job Seeker Benefit. This is where everything went wrong. I tried hard to remember appointments and to do what they wanted me to do but I just couldn’t manage it. My benefit was cut and I couldn’t afford my rent. I ended up on the street and that was where I stayed for a few years, it was hopeless.

I came to the shelter when it opened, by the time I got here I was down and out, I had lost all hope. There was nowhere or no one to turn to, no future, I couldn’t see my way out of it. Life just felt like a never ending cycle going further and further down. I could not trust anyone not even the people at the shelter when I came in. The worst thing of all is you lose your faith in Society and people in general, couldn’t trust anyone.

At first I couldn’t trust the shelter staff but over time this began to change. The way the staff look at things and do things just works. There was no pressure, they just encouraged me. They made me feel good and like there was hope for me after all. I began to feel trust in people again. They seemed to care about me and they seemed to know what needed to be done. Nothing was too hard for them.
I started to get my life back, I had to go to lots and lots of assessments but the Social Worker helped me with everything. After more assessments Work and Income and a Doctor thought the right benefit for me was the Supported Independent Living Payments not Job Seeker.

Not too long ago my father passed away. This was not a good time for me, I could have gone backwards or given up again. Tracey (Social Worker) was there to support me through everything. She came with me to the Tangi which was 3 hours’ drive away. I was so well supported I was able to pick myself up and carry on with my goals.

Everything gets dealt with here, no matter how big or how small nothing is too much trouble. In that way I have been able to talk to her, trust her, nothing is too big for her. She filled so many gaps.

When I came to the shelter I was offered a bed. I did not realise that this meant a bed for life. Yes I am leaving the shelter tomorrow but I have a bed for life. I feel like my life has been saved.

This is my story, I am so excited about my life now. 

- Steve

Entry 15.9.2014 / Exit 15.1.2016

From the outside looking in

When Steve first arrived at the shelter he was painfully shy and withdrawn. So much so that he spoke in the smallest whisper, we really had to strain our ears to hear what he was saying. After a period of time we noticed that Steve spoke clearly and confidently albeit when visitors came to the Shelter the whisper would return. Now Steve never whispers and best of all, he voices his opinions and needs clearly and assertively. Watching him stand up for himself warms our hearts, we knew he was ready to re-enter our community in a positive and safe way.

Scribing Steve's story for you once again highlighted where our systems fail the most vulnerable people in our community. It is clear that services and case managers are tasked with removing people from their specific case loads, dam the consequences it appears. The consequences for this man was dire. There appears to be no follow up, no support to navigate complex systems and no consideration given to the complete person.

We must consider the complete person and take a holistic approach in all that we do. The emphasis should not be on removing someone from a case load it should be on what does this person need by way of supports to live the best life possible.

It was clear from the moment that Steve walked through the door that employment, at least full time employment, was not an option. Physical disabilities, head injury, cognitive impairment... Clearly even managing the 'work ready' requirements at Work and Income proved challenging!

Over the years that Steve was living on the street who should have asked those next questions? I can assure you plenty of people could have. It appears that it was just easier to look the other way. We surely don't want to make work for ourselves do we...

I challenge each and every case manager out there, wherever you work, to have another look and ask the next question.