Homeless man: The cave gives me life

By Aroha Mane

Awhi, of Ngāi Te Rangi and Waitaha descent, lives in Tauranga Moana. He has a family and is a former builder and forestry worker. Awhi is also homeless because of the housing crisis. But he's discovered a haven in a prime location.

Million-dollar homes on prime real estate sit right next door to Awhi. He doesn't have much but he reckons that's okay.

“I wake up 3 o'clock in the morning. It's a normal day to me. I go for what they call bowel movements, I come home. I go to the moana to see what's happening. I go for a fish and, basically, that’s it. It's everybody's dream to live, to be happy, have no consequences and bills,” Awhi says.

Awhi is homeless. But this has been his temporary shelter at the base of Mauao since last year's lockdown.

“I was brought up here back in the 1950s and 1960s. We moved back to our home marae and I just revisited over the years. I went to trade training, that didn't work out too well because Māori Affairs closed it down. I turn 65 shortly, I lived 56 years of those in a square box, which was a house. What I'm trying to do now is live a childhood.”

But his neighbours don't like him.

“When I first got here yes, the council, the police visited me. I'm still here. I don't know why they were complaining about it in the first place. I would rather them just walk across the road and talk to me like other people have.”

Awhi says he'll stay put, no matter what.

“A lot of want I've got here is donated because other people moved away and left things behind. The setup its self was already here. All I did was move in and tidied it up and made it comfortable to live in. The cave gives me life.”

Awhi says there's nothing better than the life he lives.