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Homeless Lives in New Zealand: the case of central Auckland.

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University of Waikato, ,

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This research paper, part of a larger Marsden-funded project, focuses on the central Auckland area, addressing the critical issue of homelessness in New Zealand, particularly among the Māori and Polynesian communities.

The paper begins with a literature review, acknowledging homelessness as a persistent societal issue in New Zealand, disproportionately affecting economically, ethnically, and socially marginalised groups. It highlights the alarming statistics about the physical and mental health risks faced by homeless individuals, including a higher likelihood of committing suicide and facing fatal assaults. Central to the paper is the exploration of daily practices and relationships among homeless people, and between homeless people and the public. The research emphasises the complexity of homelessness, going beyond the lack of housing to include the processes and pathways leading to and from homelessness. It highlights various factors contributing to homelessness, such as poverty, traumatic life events, mental illness, substance abuse, and the gradual erosion of social networks. The paper includes a case study section, focusing on the diverse ethnic backgrounds of homeless individuals in Auckland, particularly Māori, Pacific Islander, and Pakeha. It underscores the need for culturally sensitive approaches in addressing homelessness, involving collaboration with Māori and Pacific researchers and service providers. A notable aspect of this research is its strengths-based approach, looking at the resilience and adaptive strategies within homeless communities. It challenges the conventional deficit-focused perspective and emphasises the communal aspect of resilience. The paper discusses the importance of understanding the social interactions and support systems among the homeless, which are often overlooked in research and policy-making. The methodology section describes the engagement with homeless participants through interviews and photoproduction exercises, aiming to understand their perceptions and experiences. The paper presents a detailed case study of a participant named Peter, providing insights into the strategies employed by homeless individuals for survival and their interaction with public spaces and society. The research advocates for a broader understanding of homelessness that extends beyond housing issues. It calls for a social perspective in addressing homelessness, emphasising the need to understand the cultural and ethnic positioning of homeless individuals in relation to their communities and society at large.

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