'Blanket Man' highlights troubles for city homeless

CLIO FRANCIS
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2012

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"Blanket Man" Ben Hana's death has hardened the resolve of Occupy Wellington protesters to fight for a place for the city's homeless.

Occupy Wellington has been camping in Civic Square since October, however the original protestors have now left the camp. The current group, of about 20 people, includes a number of people who are homeless.

The group has issued two requests to city officials: provide a building for the homeless and reduce council rents to make housing affordable for "streeties".

Occupier Trevor Paul, who provides security for the site, said Mr Hana's death "has put some mean-as cement to my cause".

"He had a hard road. If he had had a place to go ... things might have been different."

The building the group was seeking would provide a home for those on the edge of society – whether they had been thrown out of Wellington's night shelter or had just left prison and had nowhere to go, Mr Paul said. The group also wants council rents cut so they are closer to 25 per cent of tenants' incomes, which it says is what Housing New Zealand offers.

In the past few weeks, several homeless people had come to the camp for advice about gaining housing and occupiers had assisted them to find the right services, occupier Benjamin Easton said.

The camp was alcohol and drug-free and people who broke the rules were asked to leave the site.

Wellington City Council declined to comment on the occupiers' requests. The council issued the group with an eviction notice in December.

"The issue remains, from our perspective, that public space is being privately occupied," a spokesman said.

The council is expected to continue legal discussions about its next step this week.

Related stories:

Editorial: Tormented life far from romantic

Blanket Man died aged 54

Homeless man divided capital

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