Last year, a group of friends in Mangere were meeting three or four mornings a week for a short time of prayer. One of the prayers that was regularly coming up was for those on TV and around the community who were sleeping in cars. These prayers then evolved to become about what should be done in response. After a few more prayers and discussions, as well as pulling in a few more key people, a decision was made to do some kind of protest—and Park Up for Homes was born. No one knew at the time what was about to be unleashed.
Two months and nine events later, over 2000 people would sleep in their cars across Auckland and around the country. Everyone who took part shared the same desire, which was to show solidarity with those doing it tough on the streets and to put a spotlight on the issue so policymakers would take note.
The feedback from some who are homeless has been that the events made them feel like they weren’t invisible anymore and that someone cared enough to highlight their cause.
Some in the policymaking world also fed back that the Park Up for Homes events played a role in the government deciding to announce a $300 million package on emergency housing. Whether that’s the case or not, the protests led to a number of partnerships being established to make a concrete difference for those living in cars.
It was held in Mangere on an incredibly cold night. Who knew whether more than twenty cars would come, or if the police would order everyone to go home, or if the rain might wash the whole thing out. Instead, over 1000 people turned up, the weather held, and the police helped keep a few larkins in check. Plus, every media outlet imaginable reported on the event.
For Justin Latif who was part of the group who organised Park Up for Homes, there were two significant pieces of learning that came out of the first event. He says, “Firstly, it showed me the power of prayer and what can happen when that power is put into practice beyond the lounges and church halls and onto the street. And secondly, it also showed me the power of relationship. A number of us involved had lived in Mangere for years doing all sorts of different things. On the back of our relationships with each other and those in our community, we were able to rally hundreds together on a frigid night in June because people trusted us and knew our hearts.”
Hopefully on that night people could truly say, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).