WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Homelessness workshop ‘blows away’ students

Sr Marcellin Wilson
5 April 2011

A role play on homelessness in Wellington helped participants at a Social Justice Hui workshop at the end of February understand some of the issues that commonly prevent people from finding accommodation.

Sr Marcellin and Wellington South lay pastoral leader Karen Holland who have been researching homelessness in Wellington women for the past six months, led the workshop.

The role play highlighted some of the conditions of tenancy that face potential tenants. Participants had to deal with 10 scenes which can prevent occupancy including:
• no children,
• no noise at night
• the landlord can ask for sexual favours
• the tenants who are ex prisoners are collected within 24 hours
• the tenant is Pakeha
• there is no drink, drugs or parties
• the rent is $400 per week
• tenants are required to babysit for the landlord
• tenants must not allow visitors overnight
• there are gang members next door.

Sharing these roles with the whole group produced some unscripted moments.

Stifled laughter greeted the condition that the woman tenant ‘provide sexual favours’ until the participant playing this role said it brought back painful memories of just this situation.

The man who played the ‘must be Paheka’ role was a Tokelauan who chose to remain in the role because he had had direct experience of this attitude.

Part two of the role play had the man in the $400 flat being made redundant from his work, the woman in the ‘no children’ flat became pregnant, the person who had to provide sexual favours as part of the tenancy was asked to refuse to open her door to anyone, the ex-prisoners became aware that no family was coming to pick them up.

This removed four flats from the market and people had to negotiate their way into other flats. Participants found themselves in uncomfortable situations but which they had to go through to protect their own tenancy. The only tenants who were not able to re-locate were the two women who were pregnant. This caused some serious reflection.

The workshop debriefing drew intense interactions. Flat owners and tenants all explained their positions.

Senior students from a local secondary school reported to their teacher that they were ‘blown away’ by the workshop.

The session ended with Karen and Marcellin explaining the six months’ research they have completed on the need for sheltered accommodation for women in Wellington.

They also discussed the progress being made by women’s religious congregations in Wellington to answer this need using accommodation provided by Housing New Zealand.