Monday, 23 April 2012

Supporting Hidden Talents

Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) works at the tough end of things. Faced with those in need, we often forget to report on the positive outcomes of our work.

Kate Bell, outreach worker at DCM says, “Many of our service users have hidden talents they don’t have the opportunity to show because they don’t have the stability and security that having a place to live provides.”

Kate and Alan Norman, also an outreach worker at DCM, are involved in supporting people into stable and affordable housing.

“One of our clients has an amazing talent for writing poetry. His poems are brilliant, and since he has moved into permanent housing this talent has flourished – and so has he”, says Alan.

Alan and Kate first met this person when he was living at the Night Shelter. He is a quiet person, and so didn’t come forward to say that he needed support. When they did connect with him, they found he didn’t think he was entitled to help, and had debts which prevented him from moving into a tenancy with City Housing.

City Housing has a policy where if a person has debts over a certain threshold, they must be actively paying them off before they can be eligible for housing. With Alan acting as an advocate for him, this person was able to reduce and manage his debts.

“When we visited recently, he was looking extremely happy. He has started writing poetry again, he had food cooking on the stove, and has a much brighter outlook on life than when Kate and I first met him,” says Alan.

There are many other service users with hidden talents, and we hope that once they are living in stable accommodation these talents will be given the opportunity to grow.

You can find out more about the work that we do at DCM by contacting us on 04 384 7699 or visiting our website:

Volunteer Football Fever

This week, not only are we celebrating the All Whites’ achievements at the football World Cup, but it is also Volunteer Awareness Week. New Zealand has a lesser-known football team fundraising to go to a different World Cup and this team is supported entirely by volunteers.

The 2010 Homeless World Cup will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in September. Volunteers are fundraising to meet the cost of uniforms, passports, insurance and return flights to Brazil.

Katie Owen, a volunteer from Street Football Aotearoa says, “Participation in the Homeless World Cup has shown a significant impact on the lives of homeless and marginalised people. From our 2008 team, one player has started University, another received an award for his volunteer work, and three others are now in stable employment.

“Unfortunately, we are currently $10,000 short of our budgeted total and we need to raise this in the next three weeks so that we don’t miss out on flights”.

The Homeless World Cup began in 2003. More than 500 players from over 60 nations will take part. Participation has consistently led to over 70% of those involved improving their lives through employment, housing, education and addiction treatment programmes. All the players who represented NZ at the 2008 Cup have moved into stable accommodation and made positive life changes.

Street Football Aotearoa is supporting the NZ team, and has been preparing participants from all around the country for 18 months. Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) coordinates weekly training sessions for players in Wellington.

DCM is proud to be supporting Street Football Aotearoa and acknowledges the role volunteers have in getting the team to Brazil.

You can make donations to Street Football Aotearoa and find out more about the team at: For more information about the 2010 Homeless World Cup, visit:

Visioning the End to Homelessness

The New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness (NZCEH) met this week in Wellington to discuss the planning and strategies around their vision to end homelessness in New Zealand by 2020. They were hosted by Downtown Community Ministry (DCM).

Corie Haddock, service manager of Lifewise, and chair of NZCEH says, “Homelessness is not a lifestyle choice. It is a result, and an example, of extreme social exclusion. Homelessness is a complex issue, and can effect a wide population.

“We want to ensure that the needs of homeless people and NZCEH’s strategies are at the forefront of our government’s future social policy frameworks. We want to emulate Australia’s national policies on ending homelessness, and learn from their experiences when developing our own policies.”

In Australia, homelessness has been on the political agenda since the election of the current government in 2007. There have been a number of national, state and regional consultations and a target of halving national homelessness by 2020.

Stephanie McIntyre, director of DCM says, “We want a clear commitment from the New Zealand government that they want to end homelessness in NZ. The state of Victoria in Australia has established and committed to a ten-year cross- governmental plan to reduce homelessness which has been endorsed at Ministerial level”.

Like DCM, NZCEH believes that every person has the right to participate freely and fully in their lives and develop their potential as human beings. However, homeless people are often excluded from these fundamental rights due to a wide range of barriers.

Stephanie says, “Often homeless people aren’t able to enjoy the benefits of our society like the rest of us, and changing this is vital to the dignity, equality and security that each person deserves.”

Rethinking Punishment

With New Zealand’s rate of imprisonment second only to the United States, Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) is backing calls for reform of our prison system.

The changes urgently required include: placing the role of Corrections within social service departments, and making sure prisoners get access to remedial education, drug and alcohol programmes and a genuine rehabilitative environment.

Dr Tony Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Victoria University is one of a number of voices calling for the establishment of an independent penal commission.

“Our current prison system is failing. DCM supports the recommendations for penal reform, and a move towards prison policy based on research and expert advice.” says Stephanie McIntyre, director of DCM.

This is a view supported by the Salvation Army in their 2006 report, “Beyond the Holding Tank.” This report, as well as advocating for an independent penal commission, recommends moving the focus from building more prisons and increasingly harsher sentencing policy to restorative and rehabilitative processes.

Stephanie says, “With illiteracy rates high among prisoners, there is a failure by prisons to use opportunities to address literacy issues. This makes moving into employment once released an even harder task. DCM witnesses first-hand the effects of this, and the increasing need for social services through lack of opportunities for released offenders.”

Bill English commented at a speech to the Families Commission in May this year, that our prison system was a “moral and fiscal failure”. DCM urges the Government to respond to the frequent calls for penal reform.

If you would like to find out more about organisations involved in penal reform in New Zealand, please visit the Rethinking Crime and Punishment website.

Our Cupboards Are Bare

The Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) foodbank is almost empty. We’ve seen a 44% increase in the number of food parcels given out in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same quarter in 2010.

“The situation is dire, we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of people we’re supporting even though our foodbank is only open two afternoons a week”, says Stephanie McIntye, director of DCM.

In Jan – March 2010, DCM provided 627 food parcels to 241 people, with 66 people using the foodbank for the first time. For the same period this year, we’ve given out 903 parcels to 289 people, with a startling 90 new clients.

The majority of these people are on a Sickness, Invalid’s or Unemployment Benefit, though the number of people not receiving any income at all has increased from one person, to nine people. This is hardly suprising given the increase in the costs of living, and the increase in the unemployment rate in New Zealand.

“It is deeply disappointing to see so many people in such great need. Not since the 90s have we seen this level of reliance on our foodbank. Because we’re seeing more people, our food supplies are running low. We don’t want to get in a situation where we are having to turn people away,” says Stephanie.

In our foodbank, there are only 2 cans of tuna left, 3 cans of beetroot, 1 can of corn, a few spreads and boxes of Weetbix, and some baked beans and canned tomato. There’s no tinned fruit, meat or other fish. There’s no soup, packet meals, tea and coffee or even toilet paper.

DCM needs your help to restock our shelves. If you have items to donate, please contact us on 04 384 7699.

All About Inclusion

Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) believes that everyone deserves to be understood. This week, we had the fantastic support of a sign language interpreter from iSign to help us.

A deaf homeless person came into DCM needing urgent assistance. Despite staff spending a long time with the person, we were unable to effectively communicate. This was a problem on our behalf due to the lack of signing skills we have as an organisation.
Stephanie McIntyre, director of DCM, says “We rang the Deaf association for their advice, and were directed towards iSign. Less than an hour after this call, an interpreter was onsite.”

iSign is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Deaf Aotearoa. Any profit iSign makes goes back into unfunded work for the Deaf community. The website behind iSign, which includes a system where the public can request interpreters has been online since September 2009.

There are approximately 80 interpreters registered with iSign, and a small team behind the scenes, as well as 3 booking administrators, who organise bookings for the whole country.

Shannon Knox, from iSign, says “One of our booking administrators is Deaf herself, and we are very proud of her for proving that it is possible for a Deaf person to do what is basically a “call centre” job using NZ Relay as well as email and text messaging – and excel 
at it!”

NZ Relay is a system where conversations over the phone are typed and relayed, making it possible for a Deaf person and a hearing person to converse over the phone. This is the system Stephanie encountered when initially contacting iSign to book an interpreter.

“The meeting we had with the person, the interpreter and our staff was fantastic. We were able to ask what we could do to help and provide more assistance for them. We were also able to arrange a follow up meeting to enable us to offer more proactive support. This would not have been possible without the quick and professional service from iSign”, says Stephanie.

You can find out more about iSign at:

Putting Up Walls for Dignity

Over the last few weeks, the Wellington Night Shelter has been upgrading its emergency dormitory accommodation.

Previously, the walls on the dormitory cubicles were waist height offering little solitude. Now they reach almost to the roof, providing increased privacy, space and a sense of security. The next stage in the refurbishment will see lockable doors added to the cubicles.

Barry, a current Night Shelter guest, says, “The new cubicles are great, there is more privacy and space. It gives us dignity and makes us feel respected. It’s really important to feel respected”.

The changes follow current international best practice standards towards providing more human and dignified transitional accommodation. Our Night Shelter currently has 22 hostel rooms, and a similar number of beds in the dormitory.

Many overseas shelters are heading towards hostel-style accommodation in an effort to make the transition to permanent housing more effective. An example of this is the Triage Shelter, run by Rain City Housing, in Vancouver, Canada. Here, each guest has their own room with a window, bed, lamp, night stand, chair and secure wardrobe. Their aim is to help each person who comes to the shelter regain their dignity and self worth through providing innovative and specialised housing support services.

Like Rain City Housing, Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) believes that homeless people deserve respect and a human living environment.

For more information on the Night Shelter and DCM’s commitment to improving homelessness outcomes, please visit: You can find out more about the Triage Shelter at:

Alternative Welfare Paths

The Alternative Welfare Working Group (AWWG) had their first meeting today. Many community groups felt that their views were not being heard by the government-sponsored Welfare Working Group, and wanted to make sure that all options were considered to provide the best outcomes for our communities.

Community and welfare activist Sue Bradford, a member of the AWWG, says, “This is a fantastic initiative for important and open debate, rather than just focusing on the Government’s pre-determined agenda. The AWWG has the ability to include a wider range of community organisations in the discussions.

“This is highly important as the Government’s proposed reforms could have the potential to completely overturn our social security system”.

The Welfare Working Group was established by Cabinet in April 2010 to undertake an expansive review of the welfare system. They are tasked with reporting back to the Government in December this year.

Like Downtown Community Ministry (DCM), the AWWG see an urgent need for a community-wide and informed debate in light of the Government’s welfare review. DCM believes there are several areas critical to supporting people to address high levels of debt, health concerns and access to stable accommodation.

Stephanie McIntyre, director of DCM says “There needs to be an emphasis on wellness and improving all outcomes for our service users, rather than focusing on simply getting them off a benefit”.

The AWWG was established by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Anglician Social Justice Commission and the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation of New Zealand. The AWWG intends to invite submissions and comments, and to hold opportunities for public discussion.

To find out more information, see the AWWG’s website

End of Tax Year 2010 Letter


At Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) we work hard to ensure our service users gain a greater sense of well-being, independence and social interaction.

I urge you to consider making a donation to DCM today. We realise that we are asking for assistance at the same time as our hearts and thoughts are going out to the people of Christchurch, and that many of you will have made a financial commitment to this worthy cause. We are helping too; we’re experiencing an increase of people needing our services, people who have recently arrived in Wellington and have no place else to go. But, we need your help to continue to do this.

In November 2010, we wrote to you with the story of “John” (not his real name). John has a long history of alcoholism, burning almost every bridge available to him, but DCM continued to work with him and support him into housing. At the time of that letter, John had been living successfully in his own home for two months. Now, he has been there for five months. Our staff still visit him often and continue to support him.

But, we do much more than this at DCM. We work hard to find new and innovative ways to engage our service users and support them to reach their goals. A great example is our Ukelele Group. Lead by one of our staff members, the group meets every Thursday to make music together – another activity like Street Football that gives people a change to have positive activities to engage in.

There are several ways that you can contribute to and support DCM. Remember that for every $1 you donate, you can claim 33.33¢ as a tax deduction.

You could make a donation using the form provided. 
You could nominate Downtown Community Ministry in the box “Name of taxpayer receiving     your refund” in section 34 of your IR3 form. (Our IRD number is: 42 072 605). 
Or, you could support DCM on a regular basis by setting up an automatic payment.

Please contact us if you would like to do this, and we’ll arrange sending you a form. Thank you for your support, and for taking the time to consider this request.

Kind Regards, 

End of Year Appeal Letter 2010

Dear NAME,

At Downtown Community Ministry (DCM), we work at the tough end of things. When we are faced with those in need on a daily basis it’s great to celebrate the positive outcomes of our work.

We’d like to be able to do much more – but we can’t do this without your support. I am writing to you to share one of the many inspiring stories that result from our hard work, and to encourage you to consider making a financial gift to DCM as we approach the festive season.

“John” (not his real name) is 60 years old. He had lived without alcohol for more than 13 years with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, but after a series of events, fell back into alcohol addiction. He began a spiral into homelessness over four years ago, after working as a tradesman for 40 years.

In 2009, John was treated by the Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) 53 times, and was transported there by ambulance 32 times. He has been charged with more than 50 offences, relating to his addiction and homelessness, which resulted in three short sentences in prison. He had been living in the Night Shelter for some time. John also suffers from depression and panic attacks.

This is John’s background, and where DCM stepped in to support him to make changes. John had burnt every bridge around housing options, but with our intensive support we managed to get him another chance. We helped John into a house where he has been able to maintain his tenancy for two months so far. He is really proud of this effort, and looks forward to celebrating his three-month anniversary. DCM staff visited daily to begin with to make sure he was coping and to enjoy his company. John also has regular visits from a nurse, and attends AA meetings. John’s presentation to A&E and the Police has almost entirely reduced. John is feeling happier within himself, more positive about the future and has began engaging with his family again. He is also returning to his love of music, and one of the most important things for him is that now he is living in his own home, he is able to listen to music.

This wasn’t an easy path for John. DCM provided him with high-level support, and will continue to do so for some time. There are many more people out there like John who, with our help, can achieve greater well-being and become active members of our wider community. We can’t do this alone – you’d be surprised at what we can achieve together.

Thank you for considering making a financial gift to DCM this Christmas. I wish you all the best for the festive season.

Kind Regards,