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Hope on a big issue

My usual Big Issue vendor hasn’t been at her corner this year. I’m used to seeing her there as I come off the tram at Wynyard and walk to work – it’s a great spot with lots of foot traffic, and protection from the weather. We normally get to share a smile and when there’s a new issue I stop to buy one. This week there was a new vendor and I asked him where she was. He told me had died a few months ago. He didn’t know the details but there was a short story in this month’s Big Issue which said she had died peacefully at home with her loved ones. Her name was Antoinette.

Most homelessness is invisible – the rough sleepers you see on the street are a very small proportion of the problem. Most homelessness is hidden in couch surfing, or in insecure, crowded and unsafe housing. This can make it hard to solve. If we see problems we naturally want to solve them, but if we can’t see them then they are easy to ignore. Visibility of homelessness is key and seeing Antoinette in the corner of Wynyard Station on my way to work always grounded me, reminded me of who I was working for.

At the Foundation we want to shine more light on homelessness to ignite the natural problem-solving desire in individuals and communities. We are supporting two campaigns this year. One is the recent National Youth Homelessness Matters Day (17 April) where we worked with our supporters to hold events to raise awareness of this issue on the day. This is the first time we have got behind this campaign in a meaningful way and we want to make that day bigger and better next year. It’s the third Wednesday of every April so it will be April 16 next year and we will be promoting it as a day of education and support for youth homelessness. The advocacy campaign behind it calls for a national strategy to end youth homelessness and you can sign the petition for that campaign here. The other campaign we are supporting is the Home Time campaign which has been launched by over 100 charities to ask the Federal Government to maintain a national pool of dedicated tenancies for 15-24 year olds and address the rental gap for young people as the rental crisis deepens. The work that you help us to do does make a difference in this area – we are building a minimum of 25 new bedrooms this year – but real change requires a whole of sector including government response.

24 NAT - Big issue story Vale Antoinette
Vale Antoinette’s story was featured in the April 26 edition of THE BIG ISSUE Magazine.

I felt a sadness about Antoinette’s passing – I didn’t really know her, but we all make up part of the fabric of each other’s lives. However there’s a new vendor there, a young chap, cheerful and full of chat. If you are passing stop and buy a copy and find out a bit about him. To me, he was full of life when I stopped and asked about Antoinette and he told me what had happened. My encounter with him cheered me up and reminded me – where there’s life, there’s hope.