• A rug from a homeless man

    by  • October 3, 2012 • Comment • 5 Comments

    This week’s Listener carries an account of three weeks I spent in a cold, dirty boarding house in Wellington, researching the lives of people who have ended up at the bottom of the inequality spectrum, and how they are treated.

    It was an eye-opening experience, and I urge everyone to read the piece, out tomorrow (Friday 5 October).

    It’s also an experience I will never forget, thanks in part to the rug in the photograph below. It was a present to me by one of the other residents in the boarding house, given in an attempt to make my room look more cheerful. He gave it even though he had very little himself, and at the same time as the boarding house’s landlord was cheerfully maintaining me in a damp, foul-smelling room.

    When I left the boarding house, its original owner wouldn’t take it back, despite repeated offers, so I brought it back to my flat and, after giving it a good clean, have installed it as pride of place in our living room.

    And so it sits there, serving as a permanent reminder of the generosity of those who have very little, and of the relative comfort in which the rest of us live.

    (NB: Attentive readers may have realised that someone living in a boarding house is not ‘homeless’, as the term is normally understood. But I am using the Statistics New Zealand official definition of homelessness, which includes anyone living in temporary accommodation, including boarding houses.)

    Max Rashbrooke


    Max is an author, academic and journalist working in Wellington, New Zealand, where he writes about politics, finance and social issues. Sign up to Max's mailing list.

    5 Responses to A rug from a homeless man

    1. Susan Gill
      October 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Max thanks for writing about your experience of the resident’s special generosity. It’s moving. Looking forward to reading the full account that comes out tomorrow.

    2. Bill Ryan
      October 5, 2012 at 4:10 am

      Nice piece Max, I’ll look forward to the Listener article – and hope that those who need to read it, will

    3. Jim Air
      October 5, 2012 at 11:37 pm

      Hi Max
      Just read your article in the Listener. You are very brave to have spent three weeks in that house. Hopefully some action will take place as it is very sad and depressing for any of our countrymen to have to live in such conditions. I must write to my MP, though I don’t hold out much hope on that score. The politicians will be looking at the bottom line. Will look for more of your articles.

      • Max Rashbrooke
        Max Rashbrooke
        October 5, 2012 at 11:47 pm

        Hi Jim, thanks for those comments. Don’t know who your MP is, but the local MP (re Malcolm’s boarding house, where I stayed) is Grant Robertson, and he is concerned about the issue. Equally the current government did 2 years ago at least start to bring boarding houses under tenancy law, and discussions are afoot about further measures. So there’s reasons to be hopeful!

        • Jim Air
          October 6, 2012 at 2:25 am

          Hi Max – that sounds hopeful and quite uplifting. Our local MP is Johnathan Coleman. Must follow up.

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