Sisters of Mercy, hundreds students from Mercy schools, and many staff from Sisters of Mercy ministries made a hikoi to Parliament on September 20 to highlight
the issue of homelessness. There were at least 700 students from St Catherine’s and St Mary’s Colleges, Wellington, as well as students from Villa Maria College, Christchurch and Carmel College, Auckland at the Te Whakaruruhau mō ngā iwi katoa Shelter for All
Also at the hikoi were Sisters of Mercy as well as sisters and staff from every Mercy ministry (hospitals, aged care facilities, community outreach centres and schools).
Each facility had been asked to make a “shelter for all” book, with stories, pictures and poems reflecting the need for action against homelessness.
These books were presented to ministers Paula Bennett and Michael Woodhouse at Parliament by students and sisters.
The Sisters of Mercy leadership team and representatives from one of the Mercy ministries met Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett in the Beehive.
Later, on the steps of Parliament, Labour leader Andrew Little gave a speech, as did Green Party and National Party politicians.
Shelter for All books were the presented to these politicians by students from St Mary’s, St Catherine’s and Villa Maria.
The hikoi was preceded by a letter-writing campaign to Members of Parliament about homelessness.
The letter writing was called for in July by Sr Katrina Fabish, RSM, congregational leader of Ngā Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy NZ.
“Pictures and stories of people living on the street, families living in cars, inadequate and poor housing, rising costs of rentals and homes and at-risk elderly bring before us the stark reality of how many within our reach are living,” Sr Katrina wrote.
“I believe that many of us will know of someone who is struggling in this way. The corporal work of mercy, ‘for I was homeless and you gave me shelter’ is as relevant today as it was in Jesus’ time.”
She said the gathering at Parliament was “to bring about public awareness in a non-partisan and open engagement”.
“It’s really about inviting people to participate, to find their voice and work together to find solutions.”
After the witnessing at Parliament finished, hospitality was provided at the nearby Sisters of Mercy office in Guildford Terrace.