by Don Franks

“Auckland’s phoney homeless make $100 a day on the streets” is a Herald piece by Amanda Saxton, about a few skid row alcoholics who assemble early each morning to sit together and drink.

A group of apparently lazy, cynical, dishonest parasites, permanently partying, preying on each other and neglectful of their own children. 

“They look homeless, act homeless, and half of them actually are homeless. But Phillip and the group’s kaumātua Sole Johnstone have houses to go home to each evening.”

“Why would we work, slaving 40 hours a week, when we can get $100 a pop sitting here? And I can get drunk at the same time.”

“On a good day, Phillip makes about $100 begging. On an amazing day, $200 – that’s on top of his benefit and his partner’s salary. He says he spends about $100 a day on beer and the odd bit of whiskey”.

“Phillip says he’s proud of his lifestyle, but sombres when asked what his 13 kids and seven grandchildren think of it. He admits his drinking was a problem during their childhoods: “but it is what it is and I can’t change,” he says.

Some of Phillip’s kids are currently homeless themselves, which he says “is their choice”. 

“A dishevelled, jittery old fella named Joseph staggers over and slips $20 to one of the seated men.

Its recipient – Mark Phillip – carefully moves two cans of Kingfisher beer from under his hoody to behind his bread crate, stands up, and sets off for the convenience store across the road.

“Joseph can’t buy beer there ’cause he’s been trespassed,” Phillip explains, upon his return. “So one of us goes, and charges for ‘gas money’.”

When asked if it isn’t a bit harsh to take money from a visibly struggling friend, Phillip winks.

“It’s a tax, it’s one of my hustles – it’s what we do out here,” he says.

Some of this description resonates with my own experience. In 1972 I lived with a circle of street alcoholics, when I ran a doss house in Newtown. The advanced stages of addiction to a lethal poison are not pretty to observe. Far worse than any clumsy street antics are the scenes late at night when addicts are dry retching and delirious, in terror of demons in their minds. In daylight, when first drinks briefly take the hell away, bravado is common enough. It shows some sort of human spirit, struggling beneath ruin wrought by the liquor industry. And of course, these few pathetic Herald-paraded victims are the very least of the overall picture. 

Alcohol-related harm in New Zealand has been recently estimated to cost $5.3 billion per year. A cost of $14.5 million every day.

This carnage of alcohol fueled accidents, health destruction violence and misery is set to continue, and grow

In the 12 months to March, alcohol sales reached $1.6 billion – a $200 million increase from last year, Statistics New Zealand figures show. 

There will be snowstorms in hell before the Herald rouses indignation at the boardroom beneficiaries of New Zealand’s most destructive drug trade. 

Expect instead more diversion from the problem by putting boots into the victims. Amanda Saxton’s final sentence aptly sums up the social responsibility of capitalism. 

“As the men drink more, get rowdier, and make less sense, we do a round of fist bumping and leave them to their hustles.”

  1. Susanne K says:

    I guess the mix of middle class voyeurism and moralism on display in the Herald article is what passes there for investigative journalism.

  2. Don Franks says:

    The Herald describe the writer as their “Diversity Reporter”.

    • Phil F says:

      What a hoot! But it sure shows how there is nothing inherently progressive about ‘diversity’ ideology.

  3. Alec Morgan says:

    well put Don, it was a manipulative and exploitative piece, the Auckland Council may be working up to another purge of street people and beggars–these guys one way or another, are the children of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, and a society where many value their “Fly Buys” points and fitness tracker watches ahead of social cohesion

  4. Phil F says:

    Yeh, why not an investigative piece on the drug consumption habits of the Auckland bourgeoisie and their kids. And how these people enjoy themselves on lifestyles paid for by the workers who create their wealth.

  5. Lindsey says:

    Yes, there are a number of the street people who live in the HNZ block at 139 Greys Ave, so they are not actually “homeless”. However, the cameraderie of the streets, and the drink, are preferable to sitting and looking at the walls of the flat. HNZ is about to rebuild the Greys Ave flats and provide the sort of wrap around service that many of these people, with their many difficulties, really need. I hope it makes a difference to them.

    • Don Franks says:

      I hope there is some progress made towards helping the street people and offering them real alternatives to a bleak narrow existence.
      My main motivation for writing though was concern about the much greater number of functioning alcohol addicts and the liquor industry juggernaut daily and hourly creating more of them. Capitalist glamorisation of a highly addictive depressant is having very harmful consequences on the working class.