“We can’t afford to turn a blind eye to homelessness”

For Charlie Tredway, the experience of homelessness is personal.

Charlie was born in South Africa, raised in New Zealand and Texas, USA, and has spent time in Sydney, Australia. He admits his accent is “a little mangled and strange” but he still calls New Zealand home.

Charlie also knows what’s it like to live without shelter. At 17 years old and just out of high school, Charlie was kicked out of home because of his sexuality.

“Homelessness is something I struggled with on and off for a decade as a young adult, and all the issues that connect with it,” he said.

“I know first-hand what it feels like to not have anywhere to go and to feel like you don’t matter.”

Charlie cycled between either sleeping rough or in unstable housing.

“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The longer you stay homeless the more you cycle around unsafe or unstable accommodation and the more frustrated and distrustful you become of bureaucracy and agencies that should be there to help you.”

Now 34 years old, Charlie is heavily involved in the LGBTIQA+ community and the HIV advocacy space. He’s also a homelessness support advisor for RainbowYOUTH – a position he says would have greatly benefitted him earlier in life when he needed support.

“Part of my role is to serve the needs of our queer, gender diverse and intersex rangatahi experiencing or at risk of homelessness, whether that be sleeping rough, couch surfing, living in unsafe environments or not knowing where you will sleep night to night.”

When asked why volunteering for Ira Mata, Ira Tangata: Auckland’s Homeless Count was important to him, Charlie explained the need for us as a country to strive to do better.

“We need to engage and make sure people experiencing homelessness get the support and dignity they deserve. And the first step of that is knowing the extent of what we are dealing with. That is what makes this count so important.”

“New Zealand has always moved slightly ahead of the curve on social justice and equity issues. Our size means we can get stuck in and think creatively and effect really tangible change, but to do that we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to homelessness. It’s just not an option. And to affect any change requires buy-in and mobilisation from communities and people who acknowledge that something isn’t right and that something needs to be done about it.”

Charlie left us with a quote from Ghandi.

“The measure of a country’s greatness should be based on how well it cares for its most vulnerable populations.”

Approximately 750 volunteers are needed for Auckland’s Homeless Count. Find out more and register to volunteer before 31 August 2018.