7 Jul 2021

Tackling homelessness in Tāmaki Makaurau

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:25 pm on 7 July 2021

A group of teenagers who in 2014 called Auckland's Queen Street their home are the subject of a new TVNZ series The Young and the Reckless.

Homelessness can happen to anyone, says the director of The Young and the Reckless - filmmaker Johnny Agnew.

In 2014, he and his wife Azita’s nephew ran away from home. 

“To us at the time, it was such a confusing point in our lives because we were wondering constantly what we could have done differently for him not to make that decision,” Johnny tells Wallace Chapman. 

“The roads he was going down were very treacherous, but we certainly didn’t expect that.” 

Within ten minutes of the pair going to search for him in central Auckland, they found him. 

“He was just in Aotea Square surrounded by a group of boys and some older streeties, and girls.” 

Welcoming them with open arms, their nephew introduced the couple to everyone. 

It was a very shocking situation to behold, Azita says.

“Obviously we had heard about teenagers running away but we are a very standard Kiwi family. For us to even see ourselves in that situation, it was just mind-blowing.” 

Johnny and Azita became close with their nephew’s friends and invited them to have homemade dinners, take showers at their house and get their washing done.

After hearing the teens speak so candidly about their experiences, Johnny asked if he could voice-record their stories.

“They would talk for hours, the way they would express their thoughts was amazing.” 

There are many different reasons people end up on the streets, Azita says. 

“Everyone has their own reason. It’s quite complicated. We feel what really drives people to stay on the streets is the sense of belonging which is missing these days from our lives generally.

“What the community on the street provides people is that they’re not judged by anyone, they are exposed, they have nothing to hide, and they all face the same issues. That makes them closer together.” 

Johnny and Azita's nephew found a 'street mum', a 'street dad' and a wider 'street family', she says.

“Basically, the street parents are old streeties - that’s their experience. They take these kids and put them under their wings and teach them how to survive and it’s a very intimate and compact family.”

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)