Homeless at Home–The Homelessness of the Indigenous People of New Zealand

About one year ago, I had the luxury of visiting the incredible and beautiful island of New Zealand. It was an amazing experience which gave me a tour of the North Island. The whole trip made me wish I had been born there so I could spend my life living like the natives do.

But the real natives of New Zealand do not live what I would consider a happy life at all.

The indigenous people of the islands of New Zealand are known as the Māori. And they are of the highest homeless and impoverished demographic of the entire country. 

There are structural and personal implications that lead people to being homeless, no matter where you are. In New Zealand, the Māori are victims of colonialism and the Māori ideology of individual responsibility. This is similar to poverty in America, especially with the false belief that anyone can pull themselves up by the bootstraps and become wealthy if they try. Many do try, every day, and still have no upward mobility.

The personal implications arrive through relationship breakdowns, when a person is no longer in contact with anyone who can help them. This stems from the overarching problems of drug misuse, family abuse, and mental illness that is rampant in the modern Māori society.

I met with Dr. Hodgetts from the University of Waikato to talk about Māori homelessness:

“Homelessness to the Māori is often seen as a choice rather than a lack of options. We need to look at it that way too if we want to understand their situation.”

He talked about the idea that many of the Māori did not want to be helped. It was incredibly hard to find these people, to build relationships with them, and to finally convince them that they need help. Even when they are helped, they often eventually revert back to living on the streets.

“They call this feeling Mokemoke–meaning dislocation or loneliness.”

Many of the homeless Māori today still believe that they must take care of themselves because the Europeans who settled in their land are considered “guests”. They do not ask for help because they feel that this would make them poor hosts.

Although most of the people in poverty in New Zealand are from a European background,  over half of the homeless are Māori.

By Nicholas Evangelista

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