Having left Christchurch, Johnny* arrived in Wellington as a troubled man in his early thirties, wearing only the clothes on his back and totally unprepared for life on the street.

Difficulties accompanied him from an early age. He was born on a shearing table in a wool shed at Rukituri, a rural valley in Te Urewera, to a family of thirteen children but by the time of his birth, only seven had survived.

“My parents had many problems, so they gave me to people to raise me. The houses I lived in were built of corrugated iron walls and roofs. Some with no glass in windows or doors.”

Once he was old enough, Johnny decided to leave. “The day I left the house, I told my mother, ‘I will never forgive you for giving me up for adoption’. She cried and said, ‘If all else fails, don’t forget him’, pointing to the sky.” Looking back, he reflects, “I wish I’d not said that to her. I was a young, brash kid, full of hurt and hate and ignorant of the difficulties my parents were experiencing trying to feed, clothe and house us.”

”I have travelled the length and breadth of this country searching for love, peace of mind and happiness.”

Johnny was fuelled by unhappy memories of being sexually molested by an uncle at four years old. “I protected my uncle for fear of exposure, shame, ridicule, and/or persecution, but hid the fact from my wife too, which was to cause me to break down.”

“Consequently, my marriage broke down because of my preference for men. My family suffered and my wife too. Because of my inability to deal with my past, my marriage ended.”

Johnny’s difficulties in dealing with his childhood trauma also affected his work life, as he couldn’t work and hold onto jobs. “I got to a stage where I’d get a job, and by the afternoon I had quit,” he recalls.

On the verge of total collapse and suicide, he decided to check himself into a mental health facility in Christchurch to deal with the problems stemming from his childhood. “That was probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Johnny’s inability to find a job meant he had no means to afford a place to live and no money to eat. Without many other options, Johnny ended up living on the street. “I didn’t know how to survive on the streets. I slept under bridges, bushes, or in abandoned buildings. Gradually, I began to socialise with people in similar circumstances and get to know where things are.” That’s how he started frequenting the Compassion Soup Kitchen.

After many years of coming to the Compassion Soup Kitchen, Johnny highlights the support it offers to those who need it most and are looking for a place to be fed and have companionship.

”I feel safe and very welcome, and the food is lovely. That’s what keeps me coming back, it’s like a magnet.”

“When I come here, I feel relaxed around the sisters and kitchen staff,” he reflects, recognising that the Compassion Soup Kitchen has become a way of life for him.

*Name has been changed to protect their identity