I slept in my car once. It was after a night out, I took an uber home, I only had one shoe on and barely made it to the front door. The only keys I had on me were my car keys and since I couldn’t get into my house, I decided to sleep in my car. It wasn’t terrible.The sun came up the next morning and I was able to get into my house, have a shower and sleep in the comfort of my own bed.
When I saw the ‘ Park Up For Homes’ event, I wanted to participate because firstly, it’s an incredibly important cause and secondly, I’ve slept in my car before. What’s one night? Easy.
I was so wrong.
On the evening of the event, I packed three huge mink blankets (you know the ones all the aunties and uncles think are great 21st birthday gifts), pillows and toiletries. Even the process of packing the car was stressful. I wasn’t packing to go away on an overnight camping trip. I was packing to go and sleep in my car because this is what several people in New Zealand are forced do every single night. What do I need to pack? Should I take more clothes in case it gets too cold? What if there’s no room?
Throughout the night, I spoke to several people about why they were volunteering or supporting the cause. Many of them were supporting because they had been in similar situations in the past. I met a working mother, she explained that she was previously renting in a private property but her landlord continued to raise the rent. The landlord eventually raised it to a point where she could not afford it and was forced to move out. She was subsequently rejected from several properties and became homeless until she was accepted into emergency housing. Since then, she has rebuilt her life with her family and was able to attend ‘Park Up For Homes’ because, “I know what it’s like and this is no way to live”.
The night was ending and I was dreading going back to the car because I knew that it would be extremely uncomfortable and very cold. I barely slept and even though I had three blankets to keep me warm, the cold was unbearable. I was also uncomfortable with the lack of privacy. When people knock on my door at home, I have the privilege of pretending not to be home and not answering (I do this a lot btw because you have to be really special to make me get out of bed and entertain you). But in a car, your private space is so accessible, strangers can knock on your window at any time. And I’m not really sure if I feel ok with that, especially if you have children living in the car too.
After failing to sleep through the night, I couldn’t even bear the thought of waking up for work the next morning. And yet there are working families and children out there that have to fight through this and get up for work or school the next morning, every single day. I mean, children do this! And here I was, a grown ass adult, complaining and irritated by one measly night.
Thank you to the Park Up For Homes Organisers, particularly my dear friend Annaliese and all the awesome volunteers, for making a stand and encouraging our leaders to take action. It was insightful, moving and courageous. Regardless of where you stand with your political views, a car is not a home. And nobody should ever have to go through this because like my friend said, this is no way to live.
For more information on how to support the Park Up For Homes events please see: Park Up For Homes Facebook Page
For an insightful piece on the housing situation in NZ, feel free to read ‘Toby & Toby on … the emergence of emergency housing in the housing emergency’ by Toby Manhire and Toby Morris: Home is where the car is.