Howie lived in his van for over three years after struggling to find safe, permanent housing. He described the experience as having “its ups and downs,” but meeting the Orange Sky volunteers and engaging with our Auckland service made a huge difference. Here’s Howie’s story.

Hi, I’m Howie; I’m Maori from Ngāpuhi descent. I’m a proud person. I live in Beach Haven, which is known as a posh area, but I ended up living in my van for three years as I struggled finding housing.

I spent all my life in Beach Haven, playing or coaching rugby for the Northcote Tigers. After we sold our family home, I struggled to find safe and permanent housing.

I think that a lot of people who have never been through homelessness can’t really understand what it’s like. Some people would think I was lucky living in my van. It’s alright for three weeks, but not three years. My living situation had its ups and downs; the downs were pretty tough. At times, I virtually only had my dogs to talk to.

But good things also came out of me living in my van. I met a wide variety of good people – people experiencing the same situation as me, and people helping people like me. Meeting Orange Sky was like a godsend. Each Saturday morning visiting the orange van was like my big day out! Washing my clothes, having a shower and a chat gave me dignity. And people weren’t judging me for my situation or my skin colour; they just gave me moral support.

About three years, or 1,265 days after living in my van, I finally got a place. But I keep coming back to the orange van because I miss the people. It’s not just the showers, it’s the people.

I hope I can give back to my community and work with an organisation out here. I just know what people out on the streets are going through. You can still be a proud person who wants dignity when you’re living on the streets. But a lot of people don’t want to ask for help, they get overwhelmed. I hope I can help bridge that gap.

Homelessness doesn’t rest over Christmas, and holidays can be a particularly tough time for our friends on the street. If you’d like to help ensure that friends, like Howie, can continue to be supported over the holidays, please consider a donation today.

These holidays, help more people like Howie.

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