Yesterday this was the news:
The Government has this week sent its flying squads into Auckland to battle the hidden homeless crisis, but says those living in cars simply don’t want help.
The squads were formed after The Nation revealed a number of people with full-time jobs were sleeping in cars because they couldn’t afford housing in Auckland.
The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) teamed up with the Salvation Army and other non-Government organisations and hit the streets.
But the Prime Minister says when they hit Bruce Pullman Park in Takanini on Monday night, they received a frosty response.
“MSD and the Sallies went around and knocked on eight cars that they could find,” he says.
“All eight of those people refused to take support either from Sallies or MSD.”
John Key says he isn’t implying people want to live in cars.
“I’m just simply saying that of those eight people that MSD and the Sallies could identify, knocked on the cars and asked them: ‘can we give you support and can we give you help’, not just MSD, the Salvation Army — the eight of them refused.”
But reality is stranger than fiction sometimes and the above turns out to be, how do you put this, not necessarily correct. The Salvation Army has just released this press release which says this:
In the past few days, the Government and a government agency have made statements saying MSD officials accompanied Salvation Army personnel to visit homeless people living in Bruce Pulman Park in South Auckland.
These statements are incorrect.
MSD officials did not accompany Salvation Army social personnel to Bruce Pulman Park last Monday night, as part of the Army’s regular visits to the site. The Salvation Army declined the offer by MSD officials to accompany The Salvation Army as some of these people are very wary of government officials.
The results of this statement, as well as recent images of homeless people living in dire material hardship disseminated by the media, have deeply upset these people and have put the relationship between them and Salvation Army personnel in jeopardy, weakening the Army’s ability to assist them.
The Salvation Army does not knock on people’s car windows. It has a van from which food, water and toiletries are made available and where access to social services and advocacy can be arranged.
The Salvation Army has spent years developing relationships and building trust with these people living on the outer margins of society – people who often have a deep distrust of officials.
The article is based on this video where Key was at his assured convincing best. It appears there may be a reality problem however.
Key ought to apologise to the Salvation Army and to the homeless people, preferrably personally. And he should get his facts right before commenting.