If society can be judged by how we treat the least, then the death of ‘Blanket Man’ tells us we suck
We spend $13 billion a year on welfare. Hama would have qualified for welfare if had wanted it. He qualified for community or emergency housing. A number of places had standing offers for him to stay there. He declined them.
The Wellington City Mission checked up on him weekly.
Places like Burger King gave him free food.
He got free health care, and died in a public hospital, where people who cared had taken him.
He was the face of homelessness in Wellington. It is true to say that he shunned the idea of moving off the streets in recent years, and indeed of taking on much in the way of formalised help. He was beyond that, and wanted none of it.
Hana was a very sad case, but i reject that his death is in any way any sort of reflection on the generous society that is New Zealand. The old saying goes that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
Unless you wish to champion a law that allows the state to forcibly detain those who lives on the streets and lock them in community housing, there will always be cases like Hana.
We have a real shortage of emergency accomodation, affordable accomodation and accomodation for those with mental illness. The different agencies involved are getting better at working together to find solutions, but still need to be more coordinated and flexible if we are to truly address these issues. Its not just government either, the community has a responsibility too. Many private landlords will not take on those who have a history of mental illness.
But Hana was offered plenty of accommodation. There was no shortage when it came to him.
His real problem was his mental illness fuelled by drug addiction. The problem is there is no sure fire way to cure either mental illness or drug addiction. There are many courses (mostly 100% taxpayer funded) that help cure or heal some of the people some of the time. But with mental illness there is no universal cure.
If there is any lesson to be taken from the death of Hana, it is not to turn the homeless into icons and glorify their existence. Once this started, Hana refused more and more help.Tags: Ben Hana, blanket man, Grant Robertson, Pat Brittenden