Auckland flooding: Rough sleepers bearing brunt of Auckland's severe weather

By Rayssa Almeida RNZ

Rough sleepers have had to bear the brunt of one of Auckland's worst floods while thinking of ways to escape the deluge and more rain on the way.

On the corner of Queen Street in central Auckland, 36-year-old Brenda was setting up her sleeping spot in front of an abandoned shop.

She has lived on the streets most of her life and said Friday's deluge caught her by surprise.

"I sat over there, next to Starbucks, and I slept in a doorway and all our blankets and clothing got wet. It was really cold and at this time of the night, you can't really have showers, so we were also very smelly.

"Me and my street family had to snuggle up to feel warm."

Brenda said finding a spot that was not flooded was hard.

"In a lot of these places, on doorways, we can't sleep anymore because they have sprinklers. Sometimes we just go to 24-hour cafes that are open, that we can just sit there, they have dollar coffees that we can get to warm up.

"We sit there and wait for the rain to pass. We try to have a little nap, but we have to sit up, we are not allowed to lie down."

With Auckland bracing for fresh downpours later today, she still did not know where to spend the night.

"I'm really not sure where to go tonight, probably the library.

"A lot of us go there, there's more shelter there. We get cardboards and do a blockage, if we get enough cardboard to support all the rain and all the breeze, then we will be safe."

Chris, who has been homeless for more than 30 years, said his street knowledge helped to shelter many other people on Friday.

"I've been own my own for a long time and I know where to go when it rains," the 64-year-old said. "I know exactly how far the water comes in, it doesn't matter if it is the biggest rain in Auckland, I know exactly where the dry spots in town are.

Chris and his street friend Day.
Chris and his street friend Day. Photo credit: RNZ// Rayssa Almeida

"I know where the water comes and where it doesn't."

Chris said he would face tonight's forecast rain with some cardboard and a few blankets.

"I have a big blanket and another blanket that got given for me. And I also have some dry cardboard, so I use it to go underneath [the blankets] as a way to stop the cold from coming in," Chris said.

"I shelter in a place that the water won't come in, it's actually waterproof."

'Look after your street whānau'

Auckland charities have moved to support those sleeping rough.

Through a statement, charity Lifewise said it had been working over the weekend to assist them with shelter and immediate relief from the flooding.

"Our teams have been working over the weekend to ensure people are safe and have access to dry shelter, kai, and clothing. We would ask people to look out for whānau who may be in trouble and contact emergency services," it said.

Auckland City Mission is distributing blankets, food and warm clothes for those on the streets, and warning them about the risks of sleeping outside during the severe weather.

Health and social services general manager Jacqui Dillon said HomeGround on Hobson Street had seen an increase of people coming for help over the weekend.

"On Friday, we dispatched our outreach team across central Auckland and their task was to locate and to support our most vulnerable.

"You see the devastation around the Victoria Park area, we have a number of street whānau down that way and because we have a long-term relationship with them, we went down to the places we know they normally shelter to advise them about the bad weather."

Dillon said not everyone wanted to leave the streets, so City Mission was making sure they had the resources to use through the bad weather, and information about where to seek help.

"In the end, it's their decision either to seek shelter or not, but it's our mission to make sure they are well, have a nutritious kai, enough resources to be dry and warm overnight and information on the weather and where to find help."