Monday, September 1, 2014

There are some serious issues in New Zealand re the 'homeless' and poverty, but violence is not the answer!

An incredibly sad tragedy happened yesterday in Ashburton, a mid-sized town in the South Island of New Zealand. A man walked into a WINZ office (Work and income New Zealand) and shot three people, two of whom died and seriously injured the third. New Zealand is now in the midst of a discussion about why this could have happened; about what drove this man to such an extreme action. Firstly I need to state that his actions cannot be justified, no matter what the provocation. Taking another person’s life is totally wrong at every level! Yes, I know that is happens, both here and to a much larger degree on other countries, some of whom are in the midst of wars and breakdowns of the rule of law. Yesterday’s tragedy had a begging in a systematic breakdown when it came to supporting this man, who allegedly had some massive issues with a range of ‘agencies. He was well known to the local support agencies. It is said that he came back from Australia after learning that he had an illness and that he came back to ‘die.’ Pretty strong words. He had been trying to get housing and had taken the move of putting up a tent in a public park. There are also reports that there was an abandoned ‘State house’ in the town, but I do not know if he was on the list for housing or whatever other supports he may have been offered. He was under incredible stress and once again, I do not have the full story as to the state of his mental health. There is much we do not know about this man but there is much being said about the justification for his actions! On first appearances, there seems to have been a breakdown in the support he has been offered but we do no as yet know what his reaction was to that which was offered. What we do know is that for many years, there has been criticism levelled at that government agency, amongst others and that hardly a week goes by where we hear of an incident where someone has been threatened or assaulted, whilst doing their job. What we saw yesterday was a culmination of many factors, not the least being that there is poverty in New Zealand, that there is a perception that not enough of being done to help people in the position this man was facing. Perceptions and beliefs will vary as to the causes of this situation, but what we do know is that things must change: We cannot let our people working in agencies be subject to danger, but at the same time we need to examine how this all came about. What is it that has people so frustrated that they seek such extreme and violent action? Is there a ‘mental health’ issue here, where people are not receiving the help they need? When ‘mental health,’ bean to be delivered ‘within the community, rather than in institutions, did we go way to far, leaving people vulnerable because they were not resourced sufficiently? These questions must be addressed along with those surrounding how people are ‘worked with,’ when they use Government agencies. However, once again, I come back to the point that, we cannot have people being killed, just because they are doing a job that attracts a good deal of emption when the results of their work do not satisfy the clients! Yes, address the issues and that is on a massive scale, because it goes to the very heart of how we want New Zealand to be as a nation---a fair one, or one that does not care for those who need care the most!