Right at Home

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Arthur’s Naenae home is spotless. His bench is wiped down, the chairs arranged neatly around the kitchen table, his laundry is on the line and the cushions plumped on the sofa. Music TV plays quietly in the lounge and a stone he painted with Maori motifs is displayed on the mantelpiece of the one-bedroom home he’s lived in since July.

He’s clearly delighted to have his own whare after months of being without shelter, either sleeping rough on Wellington’s streets or in the hostel at the Wellington Night Shelter. “I’ve become quite domesticated,” he says, offering his visitors a cup of coffee.

Arthur came to Wellington from the Bay of Plenty in February this year. He left everything behind, wanting a fresh start – “something different”. But he knew no-one in the city so ended up living on the street. After someone he met told him about DCM he took himself off to Lukes Lane to see how DCM could support him.

DCM staff assessed Arthur’s needs and worked with him on a plan to get him back into life. While their focus was on “Housing First”, getting Arthur into his own whare as soon as possible, DCM’s support has gone far beyond that.

Using the Dental Service at DCM – supported by local dentists who volunteer their time – Arthur now has a new set of teeth. “That’s been great. I can now eat properly,” he says. “DCM helped me with pretty much everything. They gave me food parcels, supported me to get my licence back and got a copy of my birth certificate.”

(A significant barrier for many people in Arthur’s situation is they don’t have the identification required to do many day-to-day things.)

Arthur also had his hearing checked using DCM’s new audiology service, which offers the people they work with free hearing tests and hearing aids if necessary. He was very surprised by what the audiologist found.

“I had big rocks in my ears! The lady pulled big wads of wax. I was freaked out. I was just sitting in reception and they asked me if I’d like my ears tested. I found they were all blocked up. There were big chunks of wax in my ears, both sides. That’s the kind of thing DCM does. It’s way better now, I can hear much better.”

Finding full-time work is the next thing on Arthur’s agenda and he’s been labouring part-time at a job found via one of DCM’s staff, as well as selling Regenerate magazines at local vegetable markets.

“I have my logging and farming tickets but there’s not much logging and farming work around Wellington. I’d really like to go out on a fishing boat, so I’m working towards that. I would like to work full time. I’ve got too much time on my hands at the moment.”

Arthur was doing a literacy course but had to give that up when he moved out to Naenae, meaning it cost too much to travel in to his course. And that’s the one downside, he says – he’d rather be living in Wellington.

But, with DCM’s ongoing support, with staff regularly visiting him, making sure he has familiar things around him and a routine, he’s become used to living in the Hutt Valley.

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“At first I did feel I was too far away from my support networks in Wellington. But everyone was telling me to stick with it and give it a go. I’m getting used to it now.

“I didn’t want to let anyone down who was supporting me, and there are a lot of people there helping me. I wanted to stick it out. If I’d given up this house I’d have gone back to the bottom of the list and ended up back in the night shelter.”

And that’s something Arthur doesn’t want, because the best thing about having his own whare? “Being able to sleep in and not having to go back out on the street by 7:30am.”