Homeless men clean up the streets

Painting over graffiti to 'give something back'

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 14:30 02/07/2013
homeless men landscape
John Kirk-Anderson

GIVING BACK: Michael, left, and Sam, from the Christchurch City Mission, paint out graffiti on a Cashel St building.

homeless men std
John Kirk-Anderson
MISSION MEN: Michael, front, and Murray, from the Christchurch City Mission, get to work.

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A group of homeless men is on a mission to clean up graffiti around Christchurch.

The men, from the Christchurch City Mission, have been hitting the streets armed with paint brushes to help businesses affected by tagging.

Michael, a client of the men's day programme at the mission, approached staff last week to ask if he could help out by cleaning up parts of the city hit by graffiti.

''We really want to give back because the city council and the mission have given so much  to us,'' he said.

''We live in this city and we didn't want to look at all this tagging, so we thought we'd do something about it. We have a lot of time and we're happy to help.''

The mission contacted the Christchurch City Council, and the men were given gear and paint to make a start.

'We are delighted that the idea was a client initiative,'' City Mission manager Rachel Scott said.

''It's a way of giving back to the community, who have supported our clients so well during a very difficult time. Michael in particular was very appreciative of the help he received from the council's support workers."

The men were at the Oriental Warehouse in Cashel St this morning for their first paint job.

The warehouse has been repeatedly hit with graffiti, and owner Cheng Sim had been worried that the tags were ''racially motivated".

''I didn't understand why people would do this to us and why it kept coming back. Don't they have anything better to do?'' she said.

One of the men, Murray, used to be a tagger and reassured Sim they were not targeted at her.

''They're just signs from different taggers. I used to be a tagger years ago, but I have stopped," he said.

Sim was pleased to have the help.

''The council came by and gave us paint a few months ago, but we don't have time to paint and we don't know how. We're very grateful for these men. It looks great,'' she said.

The men will be working over the next few weeks to identify graffiti in the central city and contact building owners about painting it over.

Michael said they would monitor the Oriental Warehouse and come back to repaint if the tagging returned.

''They might come back, but we have more stamina than them.''

He hoped the project would just be the start of what clients of the mission could achieve.

''There are a lot of guys at the mission who do want to help. We're not all alcoholics and drug addicts,'' he said.

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