“I’ve been wondering why, in a place like New Zealand, we still have homelessness,” says the now 76 year old.
“In 1955 I was one of them. I lived in Ponsonby and we slept in the park. The difference was we all worked, but we just didn’t go home and pay rent or whatever.
He says they were just youth growing up, just trying to have fun.
“Now I am in my seventies I realise that I got myself into a bad situation – for a long time I never knew what I was going to do, never knew what tomorrow would bring.”
With no future plans, Laddy decided he’d had enough.
“I was getting too old, you know, sleeping on the streets and not knowing what was going to happen. And that was when I realised I had to do something different.”
And that difference came when it was suggested to Laddy that he ring a Mäori provider linked to Te Pou Matakana, the North Island Whänau Ora Commissioning Agency.
“My life has turned right around since then – and now I’m a respected, retired person having the time of my life. Thanks to the help they gave me,” he says.
“What helped me through it was my kaiärahi. I didn’t know what my entitlements were. He took me to all the places I needed to go to. I had no idea how to approach the real estate agent. But now I’ve got a place and I‘ve been there ever since.”
When he moved into his new digs, it was furnished with only a couch which doubled as Laddy’s bed.
Then he was granted Whänau Direct, funding support which meant furniture and food.
“It was such a big boost for me, like having a double bed, lights, a microwave oven, all sorts of stuff that came through really quickly.”
Now Laddy, whose full name is Michael Bristow (Ngäpuhi), enjoys life every day and he says it’s not just a case of having money.
“It’s having security within your own mind. I learn something new every day. I reckon everyone should have a goal – that’s what makes life exciting. I like getting up and thinking what I am going to do today?”
Now he thinks about helping others too and looks to the future.
“I also think ‘what can I do for someone else’? One of my goals is looking after our Mäori land. It should never be sold because it is gifted to us. I’m just a caretaker, it’s for the people who are coming behind me. It’s got to be there for them.”