Interactions with Wellington's homeless inspire book of poems

Poet John Howell took this photo - the cover of his book of poems titled Homeless. It shows a homeless person's shelter, ...
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Poet John Howell took this photo - the cover of his book of poems titled Homeless. It shows a homeless person's shelter, which has since been removed, in Lukes Lane.

Inspired by his dealings with the homeless, John Howell has published a book of poems about what he's seen.

Homeless  will be launched next Tuesday, October 10,  on World Homeless Day.

Many of the poems were written based on experiences Howell has had over three years of volunteering at Wellington's homeless charity DCM.

One of Howell's poems, ''He walks''.
CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN/STUFF

One of Howell's poems, ''He walks''.

The launch will include DCM's ukelele band, the Nota Bene choir performing the final poem set to music and an address from Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson.

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Howell's poems do not identify anyone - and he's clear that, like DCM, he is not trying to speak for them.

The poems are based on experiences John Howell has had or seen during his time volunteering at DCM.
CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN/STUFF

The poems are based on experiences John Howell has had or seen during his time volunteering at DCM.

"DCM does not try to take the voice of the homeless. The homeless need to speak for themselves," he says.

"So this is not the voice of the homeless, this is my voice about what I see in my mind. Because if you take their voice, you disempower them."

The retired Presbyterian minister says caring is part of his DNA: his parents and grandparents were also "always concerned for the underdog".

The recipe for homelessness often includes loss of income, family or relationship breakdowns, health issues, or lack of affordable housing - and it can happen to anyone, he says.

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"I suspect that if you ask somebody, if you think of your situation, is there somebody in your family who's hit hard times?

"It could happen to you, it could happen to me. It could be us, so looking after people that are homeless is part of being in a community, being in a family."

The launch will take place at Wellington Central Library - a space often frequented by homeless people.

Howell says it is a place crucial to their ability to keep up with the wider world through reading newspapers and accessing computers.

THE DETAILS

* Homeless is publicly launched on October 10 at Wellington Central Library; 5pm. It will be available to purchase at the launch or from book stores. 

* All proceeds will go to DCM to support their work with Wellington's homeless people.

 - Stuff

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