Memorial for homeless man to be held at south Auckland church where he died

Standing where the homeless man was found dead outside Manurewa Methodist Parish on July 11 are, from left, Reverend ...
Chris Harrowell

Standing where the homeless man was found dead outside Manurewa Methodist Parish on July 11 are, from left, Reverend Vaitu'ulala Ngahe, Debbie Munroe, and Manurewa Local Board deputy chairman Rangi McLean.

He died while lying on cold concrete steps at the back of a south Auckland church.

Much remains unknown about the 59-year-old homeless man found lifeless outside Manurewa Methodist Parish on July 11, but people who didn't even know him are mourning his death.

The man was the second of Auckland's rough sleepers to die on the streets in the past two weeks.

Tributes have been left on the Onehunga bench where rough sleeper Keith Johnson was found dead.
CATRIN OWEN/STUFF

Tributes have been left on the Onehunga bench where rough sleeper Keith Johnson was found dead.

Keith Johnson, 57, was found dead on a bench in St Peter's cemetery in Onehunga on July 1.

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Manurewa woman Debbie Munroe distributes free food and hot drinks to the area's rough sleepers several times a week.

The steps where the man was found on July 11.
CHRIS HARROWELL/STUFF

The steps where the man was found on July 11.

Munroe said she had heard from other homeless people that the man found dead on the church steps had only been sleeping rough in Manurewa for two days.

"I never met him and he didn't come out last Tuesday night to get a feed.

"A lot of the other [homeless] guys hadn't even spoken to him."

Munroe said she distributed 25 meals to rough sleepers and went through three flasks of tea in just 15 minutes on July 13.

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She said the people receiving the hot food and drinks were "absolutely freezing".

"I grabbed some of the guys' hands and they were just ice.

"These guys were purple. They were freezing and shivering."

MetService data showed the temperature in Auckland got down to 10 degrees Celsius on July 10 and eight degrees on July 11.

She was upset that someone would die in such tragic circumstances in Manurewa.

"This is not how we treat people. It's just wrong.

"We live in New Zealand and this should not be happening."

Another Manurewa rough sleeper, who wanted to be known only as Terry, said none of his fellow rough sleepers in the area talked about their lives or backgrounds.

There were no children among them and the youngest was about 16. 

Terry said the food he received from Munroe was his main source of nourishment.

Manurewa Methodist Parish Reverend Vaitu'ulala Ngahe said he saw the man on the church's back steps between 7am and 7.30am on July 11.

He left to attend a meeting and when he came back police were at the scene.

Ngahe was working to organise a memorial service for the man to be held at the church at 10am on July 21.

He wanted to get in touch with his family to offer his condolences.

"We could go and see his family or invite them to the service."

Ngahe and Manurewa Local Board deputy chairman Rangi McLean were also offering to stage a funeral service for the man at the Manurewa Methodist Parish.

Counties Manukau police sergeant Scott Dixon said police found a 59-year-old deceased man in the church grounds on July 11.

He said it was believed the man was of no fixed abode and there are no suspicious circumstances.

The man's name was expected to be released next week.

His death had been referred to the coroner.

Manurewa MP Louisa Wall described the man's death as "a tragedy in our own backyard".

"We're finally seeing the full consequences of the housing crisis, which has been ignored for far too long.

"It's a tragedy and it's a shame."

 - Stuff

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