Hundreds pay it forward at homeless sleepout

Protesters in Mangere
Protesters in Mangere

Hundreds of people have camped out in their cars overnight in Auckland, demanding the Government do more to solve the homelessness crisis.

The organisers behind Park Up For Homes, a group of flatmates, started the event because they're sick and tired of people doing it rough every night.

"It's just been awesome to see how many people turned up. We've had the carpark completely full," Annaleise Johnston told Paul Henry this morning.

"It's not actually about us, but we do see something powerful in hundreds, even thousands of people coming together and saying to our leaders this is not okay. Sometimes we've got to see that groundswell of public opinion to really see change."

Hundreds pay it forward at homeless sleepout

One of the hundreds of people who slept overnight at Mangere town centre (Brigitte Purcell)

The Salvation Army says homelessness, particularly in Auckland is at crisis levels.

"People are living in cars, people are living in dangerous situations," says the Salvation Army's Campbell Roberts. "Frankly, there just hasn't been enough effort as far as politicians are concerned."

Around 1000 people showed up to the sleepover, including children, with about 600 cars.

Opposition MPs were among those sleeping in their cars as temperatures dropped to 7degC.

One family of nine -- three adults and six children -- were camping in the back of a van, the parents using it as an opportunity to show their kids how some people have to live.

"We don't want 11-year-old kids having to sleep in their vans with seven other family members, and having to go to school the next day," says Ms Johnston.

Last night began with hot chocolate, a sausage sizzle and singing, and Ms Johnston hopes it will end with the Government making an effort to get everyone into homes.

"The most positive result would be to see actual policy change that's meaningful, not band-aid solutions."

Maori wardens were on site, helping deliver food -- but that was about the only home comforts the protesters enjoyed. Ms Johnston says she wished she had bought a sleep mask.

"There was a lot of light around… I got a little bit of sleep but I'm looking forward to my bed tonight. I'm very, very thankful that I have a bed."

Hundreds pay it forward at homeless sleepout

One of the many families who slept overnight (Brigitte Purcell)

TV3's Story visited the Mangere town centre last night as the protesters were arriving.

"We had a moment where we were homeless, me and my kids," one protester told Story. "We were grateful for our friends who took us in. We understand what it's like, and because of that we just want to come back and pay it forward."

The next Park Up protest will be in Wellington at a yet-to-be-determined location close to Parliament.

Organiser Justin Latif said the response showed homelessness is an issue close to Kiwis' hearts.

"Ordinary New Zealanders are saying what is being done for homeless people including many children is simply not enough," he told NZ Newswire.

"I would hope that Government and Parliament would take this really seriously because a lot of people have responded and those people represent voters."