with Bronwyn Owens
Our General Formation group at Carey were privileged to have a visit this year from Bronwyn Owens, Chaplain at Large for the central city of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Bronwyn works for the Methodist Mission Northern, and works alongside their sister trust, Lifewise, while studying for her Bachelor of Applied Theology at Carey.
Bronwyn’s visit was during the week of “World Homeless Day”, which is acknowledged on 10 October. It was inspiring to see her light up when she spoke about the street whānau (homeless people) of her patch. She knows these people well, mentioning them by name, and loves them deeply. Bronwyn told us about the difficulties that street whānau face, and there indeed are many heartbreaking stories. Even something as basic as having a shower is too big a hurdle for many, and the ostracization from society is deeply impacting for them.
Our group wanted to know what we, and our churches, might be able to do to help. Bronwyn’s answers were simple: give a smile – it costs nothing yet gives so much. Additionally, if you have the time and money – ask if you can buy them a cold or hot drink. Bronwyn suggests not giving cash to homeless people, instead giving some consumables.
After Bronwyn’s visit, Carey staff and students collected some clothing and blankets that she was able to take to Auckland city. Lifewise has a place where coats are hung up, ready for people to choose their own, providing them with the dignity of choice, as well as warmth, (or in summer, to keep them cool). We also collected some small toiletry items, suitable for street whānau to be able to carry around with them.
Another way to help is to visit Merge café at 453 Karangahape Road. Every dollar spent at Merge Café goes towards support for people experiencing homelessness. Merge café states that “by sharing a meal and a conversation, you can help change the world… as at Merge café, our goal is to merge.” They are open on weekdays 7am-2pm.
Another way to understand a little about what life is like for street whānau is to go on one of Lifewise’s Urban Hikoi. This is a guided hīkoi (walk) around the city centre, led by people who have experienced sleeping rough. The guides invite people to see the city through their eyes; as a bedroom; a lounge; a playground and a bathroom. The process nurtures empathy and tackles myths about people on the street. The Hikoi is a 90-minute experience, and ends with a meal at Lifewise Merge Café. To discuss availability, email [email protected]
Bronwyn and her team are being the hands and feet of Jesus in Auckland’s central city. They are giving practical help, love, and mana, and most importantly, they see people.
Bronwyn is a member of Westgate Baptist, and is a Bachelor of Applied Theology Student at Carey. She is willing to visit churches to talk about her work. Please contact her on [email protected]