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Saturday, 27 April 2019 03:55 am

Wellington has deep pockets and big heart

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Meredith (left) and her mum Kirsten spent and uncomfortable night sleeping in their car

Wellingtonians have raised over half of the $66,000 given so far to this year’s 14 Hours Homeless fundraiser run throughout the country.

From Friday’s event at least $36,000 will go directly to address homelessness in Wellington.

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Some got creative with their cardboard accommodation

Mt Cook Primary School’s courtyard was transformed into a cardboard city as over 200 people slept rough as part of the event, now in it’s third year.

In Wellington the Salvation Army’s Wellington Youth Services, with DCM (Downtown Community Ministry), the Soup KitchenWellington City Mission and the Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust worked together on the event.

Meredith Patterson (10) is one of the youngest to attend this year and tripled her goal, raising over $750.

Her mum Kirsten Patterson (Tawa) said a family holiday to Sydney and Auckland last year, where her children were confronted by homelessness, was the catalyst for an on-going conversation.

“They’ve talked it a bit since and we thought this would be a good way as a family to do something about it and get involved,” says Kirsten.

But it hasn’t just been Meredith that has been impacted by sleeping in a car with no mattress or pillow.

As they prepared for the night, the rain and cold had Kirsten concerned about how she would keep her daughter protected from the weather.

“It was such a kind of telling, empathetic moment for homeless parents as I thought ‘wow, I’m only doing this for one night and Im worried about her being warm and dry.’”

Annabel (Bella) Wilton (43) Khandallah has been impacted by her last minute decision to participate by sleeping on cardboard for a night.

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Bella Wilton took part for the first time this year

“It’s the experience of being around the homeless here and talking to some of them, actually finding out first hand what it’s like,” says Bella.

Regina Tito who works at DCM shared her story of being homeless through ‘Street Smart’, a Loading Docs video.

It was a question Regina asks in her documentary, ‘do you see me?’ that had a big impact on Bella.

“I walk  along the street and don’t look at them because I don’t want to embarrass them or myself but now I realise actually giving them a smile or seeing them is what they want, or is ok.”

Steven Schrader has been squatting in the city since being released from prison a few months ago with no accommodation organised for him.

“They just let me out. I didn’t have any benefit or anything,” says Steven.

This year organisers ran an event specifically for young people alongside the main gathering and a number of youth groups across the city took part.

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Out-going Mayor Celia Wade-Brown spent her last night in office at the event

Peter Hennessey (46) brought 11 of his youth bible study members and hoped that the event would ignite a sense of social justice for them and get them involved.

“I hope it makes them aware of stuff that we just take for granted but that we can make a change and make a difference,” says Peter.

Raising awareness of issues of homelessness is as important as raising funds says the organisers.

Feedback from participants as they prepared their cardboard messages as a way of processing the experience made it clear that the organisers have achieved that goal.

Out-going Mayor Celia Wade-Brown was thanked for her efforts to address homelessness in Wellington during her time in office.

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