Along with the four other Mercy colleges in New Zealand, St Mary’s College was called to act by the Sisters of Mercy on the issue of “Shelter For All”. Representatives from various parts of the community and from Mercy organisations stood together in solidarity to bear witness to the issue of homelessness. As a school, St Mary’s College was called to action by the Sisters of Mercy to help raise more awareness about the issue of homelessness in the community and to partake in a Hikoi outside Parliament on 20 September. In this Holy Year of Mercy, responding to this call was vitally important, especially for our young people as the legislative decisions made by our government today affects our way of life now and in the future.
The issue of homelessness in New Zealand has become exceedingly significant in the past 10 years or so due to the lack of support by the government to eradicate the causes. At the Hikoi in front of Parliament, we listened to first-hand accounts of what an arduous experience it is to be homeless in New Zealand and how important it is to receive support to create, somewhat, a better situation for yourself. As young people, this is not the New Zealand we want to live in. Not now and not in the future. To think that if, in a couple of years, we were to encounter a problematic situation in our lives and consequently become homeless, the support from the government would not be sufficient enough nor even there for us to receive, and we would have to rely on the small, local charities to help us.
By recognising this issue, those present at the Hikoi became advocates for “Shelter For All”. Decision makers, along with members of the public, were able to partake and listen in on the viewpoints of those involved with the issue of homelessness – whether they were volunteers or did not have a place to call home. It is our hope that everyone had taken some sort of message from the Hikoi and furthermore, put their thoughts into action by volunteering in our society. For example, at the night shelter, soup kitchen, street collections or even better, initiating change on behalf of the homeless in Parliament.
At St Mary’s College, we believe that it is our responsibility as New Zealand’s younger generation to prevent the same problems from occurring in the future in regards to the issue of homelessness in New Zealand. We have reached a level where it is utterly appalling as we do consider ourselves a ‘first world country’. In the end, we the young people of New Zealand, will be the ones affected by this issue in the future if we do not make a change now. In a way, our role in the Hikoi was not only on behalf of ourselves but for the future generations of New Zealand. We would like to see our government start making positive changes towards bringing awareness to the issue of homelessness and reducing its strong presence in New Zealand society.
By Justine Lim-Ranola and Penny Peneueta
Year 12 Young Vinnies Deputy Leaders | St Mary’s College Wellington