• Carol Barron

World Homeless Day & Being a Bridge

This article was first published in eMessenger in October 2021.

World Homeless Day is observed on 10th October every year. This time last year I reported that the number of households on the Housing Register in June 2020 had increased 50.4% from the previous year. This year, it has increased again – up 32% since June 2020, and looking back five years to 2016, the number of households on the Housing Register has increased 531%. Today, in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is estimated that approximately 1 in 100 people are homeless – that is about 41,000 people. That is the equivalent of the combined populations of Taupō and Queenstown. Just imagine for a moment - everyone in Taupō and Queenstown without a home…

Members of the Methodist Alliance provide a range of housing solutions including Housing First, affordable housing, wrap around support services to help maintain tenancies, youth transition housing, older persons housing, etc. These workers demonstrate the four qualities described by the late Rev Dr James Stuart in the John Wesley Code – a warm heart, an open mind, a catholic spirit, and a whole gospel.[1] They are accepting, inclusive, show compassion, grace, and unconditional love to the people they provide with services and support.

These qualities are also shown by our volunteers and workers in all the services provided by our member organisations – in the vast variety of social services from the cradle to the grave. It is hard to describe how they do this work, but I think Joy Cowley’s poem, the Bridge, cleverly explains how people in our Missions and Parishes interact with people in their communities.

The Bridge[2]

There are times in life when we are called to be bridges, not a great monument spanning a distance and carrying loads of heavy traffic but a simple bridge to help one person from here to there over some difficulty such as pain, fear, grief, loneliness, a bridge which opens the way for ongoing journey.

When I become a bridge for another, I bring upon myself a blessing, for I escape from the small prison of self and exist for a wider world, breaking out to be a larger being who can enter another’s pain and rejoice in another’s triumph.

I know of only one greater blessing in this life, and that is to allow someone else to be a bridge for me.

Being a bridge has been harder these last two years with the restrictions COVID-19 has placed on how we work and live. When we work from home, some have to juggle childcare and schooling, while continuing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people we work with. Throughout all Alert Levels, we have continued to provide support and assistance to those that are disadvantaged, marginalised, vulnerable, isolated, and/or failing to thrive.

The services we provide are based on a belief system that values universal human rights, equity, equality and justice. Values and beliefs that you also hold and uphold. We use our resources to get the best outcome for the whānau we work with. You would do the same. This is and always will be a team effort. We all have a part to play and I know you care and want to change the situation that many Kiwi’s find themselves in without a safe place to live.

Methodism, and our connexional structure, provides the framework for our Missions and Parishes. Our connexional structure epitomises the importance of team work and that we are all in this together – He waka eke noa. We rise together, we fall together, we work together and we keep going together. Together we can and will make a difference in the lives of people. Together we will continue to be the voice for those without a voice. Together we will stand with the marginalised, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and the isolated. Together we help them to feel valued, worthy, appreciated and respected.

I am not saying that we Methodists can solve the housing crisis in Aotearoa New Zealand on our own, or overnight, but what we are doing and what we can do together, matters. We are making a significant difference for the 378 people that were found houses by Housing First in the last financial year, and the 1,244 people that live in Methodist housing. Methodist Alliance member organisations financed and built 62 new houses in the last two years – that is 62 new homes that did not exist two years ago.

We have not done this in isolation. People in Parishes who are not members of the Methodist Alliance have played an integral part in housing solutions around the motu. They have given their time to do a final clean of new houses, donated goods, leased under-utilised land to the Mission for a housing development, invested in social housing with a low interest loan, etc. This has enabled us to do much more under the Methodist banner. We appreciate this support as we continue to make a difference in the lives of people in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is exciting to imagine how we can increase our impact by using the resources of the whole Methodist connexion, because we are all in this together and we all have a part to play.

If you would like more information about how you can support the Methodist Alliance and the Methodist Missions in responding to the housing crisis, please check out their websites or contact me.

Carol Barron, Methodist Alliance National Coordinator,

[1] James Stuart, “The John Wesley Code,” Philip Garside Publishing, 2018, p5 [2]Joy Cowley, “The Bridge,” in Aotearoa Psalms, Pleroma Press NZ.

4 views0 comments