Christchurch homeless battle bitter cold

  • 09/06/2012

By Amanda Gillies

Canterbury is finally thawing after a snowstorm which boasted the coldest day on record.

But the homeless are struggling to cope.

Last night in Christchurch, temperatures dropped to -2degC.

It was pitch black, bitterly cold, and “George”, as he wishes to be called, is heading home. He's not driving anywhere. He’s already home – in his van.

“It's not that I want to be like this all the time. It's just sometimes you've got work, and sometimes you don't,” he says.

George is embarrassed because most of his workmates, friends and family don't know he's living in a van.

The 56-year-old welder was forced out of his beloved home in Waitaki St after the earthquake last year.

“The place got really wrecked. There was only one door you could open in the house.”

It was pulled down. He couldn't afford the local rents, which skyrocketed. Suddenly, like so many others in Christchurch, he was homeless.

“I didn't really know where to go.”

So he bought the van.

“Got all the pots in there, plates. I use a little gas cooker from the gas place. But I hardly ever cook. I go to the fast food, fish and chips place – takeaways.”

Every night he parks at New Brighton beach around 8.30pm. He has his coffee, chats to the other homeless people, doing all he can to have a “normal life”.

“It is hard. It's extremely hard. You can't have a shower, and you have to go to the camping grounds. Council used to have showers but they have taken them away.”

This week has been particularly hard. Weather temperatures have dropped to record lows.

“When it was covered in snow I never got up until 12 o'clock. It was cold as.”

He is not the only one struggling. We drove around Christchurch, spotting similar blanketed-up vans and cars parked on the side of the road.

Snow still blankets the ground around them.

At night, George opts for a beanie, a sleeping bag and two duvets. Then it's lights out for another long, cold night.

3 News

source: newshub archive