First night in the car a reality check

19:25, May 03 2012
Brenda Lowe-Johnson
SLEEPING ROUGH: Community board member Brenda Lowe-Johnson settles in for her first night of sleeping in her car to highlight the housing shortage.

The community board member taking a stand against Christchurch's housing crisis has survived the first night in her car.

Diabetic Brenda Lowe-Johnson, 68, decided to sleep in her car for a week because she was "sick and tired" of inaction over the housing shortage.

The Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board member, who has Labour links, bought a pair of "pink fleecy winter pyjamas" for her first night sleeping rough on Wednesday.

Snuggled up in her duvet, she had been "lovely and warm", but the reality of the housing crisis hit home, she said. "There were 14 other people sleeping in their cars on that side of town, and some cars had more than one person in them.

"I'm really, really trying to find out just how bad it is out there and I'm starting to see it now."

Lowe-Johnson vowed not to "cheat" or go home during the week, and she washed herself with cold water in public toilets yesterday.

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She had challenged a National MP to join her, but was not surprised the challenge had not been accepted.

The first night had been "interesting", with one rough sleeper telling her to "f... off" because he didn't want the problem to attract attention.

She said police had stopped by during the night. A friend was sleeping in another car beside her, and city councillor Yani Johanson also planned to sleep in a car for a night.

"I'm good as gold in my car. I just want to focus on this issue. Someone needs to investigate it and if this is what it takes, then I am all for it," Lowe-Johnson said.

The Press