Together We Are Avondale: October ’17

Feed the Streets

Guest numbers have been growing really well and we had our biggest turnout to date, with 32 attending. The majority of these people were returnees as well, which is really encouraging. The strategy to only invite people by word-of-mouth rather than a widespread marketing campaign has resulted in us having a tight-knit group of guests where everyone seems to know at least one other person. Together with our core group of volunteers – some of whom bring their kids – and the growing numbers of families attending, this has really helped create a warm, whanau-like vibe.

When we first started FTS we had envisioned helping some of our streeties towards what Lays’ called ‘healthy independence’. However, it’s clear that some of these guests – especially those with advanced addiction issues – are in need of high level and constant professional help that a fortnightly meal can’t provide. While we can’t necessarily help those at the extreme end of addiction – especially those who aren’t ready to receive it – these guests have told me they really value the food itself and having someone listen to what they’re going through. Providing a safe and welcome environment for people to socialise over food is significant in and of itself for our streeties and other guests, many of whom are struggling financially and/or are lonely so enjoy the company.

Community BBQs

In a follow up to our Neighbour’s Day BBQs earlier in the year, we revisited the same streets: Taramea St and Bellgrove Pl. The overarching aim was to build capacity in these streets to run their own neighbourhood BBQs as a way of strengthening the relationships between neighbours. After two events I’m not sure how realistic that goal is and I get the sense that most people aren’t interested in connecting with their neighbours that way (if at all). However, it was a success from other angles, such as showing face in our community, getting feedback about Avondale in general, and more specifically, people’s thoughts on our planned summer activation of the Avondale Intermediate pool.

Taramea St kids talking to us about the pool

It was also another opportunity to collaborate with the likes of the NPT, TYLA, Sport Waitakere and ACA, and this time SUPA came onboard to give a free dance performance on Bellgrove, which everyone loved. The money for the BBQ was entirely funded by a long-time Avondale family from Canal Rd who wanted to support us after seeing I Love Avondale’s coverage of the events earlier in the year. Others have expressed a desire to have us bring these BBQs to their streets, namely St George’s Rd and Riversdale Rd.

Bellgrove BBQ

I Love Avondale

Earlier this year we discussed setting up a regular community newsletter. Over time this has evolved to be more of an extension of I Love Avondale – a ‘digest’ of what’s been shared on the page due for launch early 2018. It will be distributed digitally by email and social media, and be downloadable via ACA’s website. We will also print poster-size copies to stick up around the community on noticeboards, at schools, laundromats etc.

Thank you to Whau Arts broker Melissa Laing who has granted us funds for a graphic designer to create our template. Thanks also to Whau Local Board advisor Mark Allen, who like Melissa has played a role in helping shape what the digest will look like.

Together We Are Avondale: September ’17

Feed the Streets

The number of return guests started to pick up this month, which has helped strengthen the relationships between everyone involved. We also had some successes outside of the meals: volunteer and Unitec student Amelia came onboard to do some placement hours with FTS; Leilani got four of our young guests onto a forklift course out west, with two of them passing; and a resident named Gina messaged I Love Avondale one night to say she had a box of bakery food to pass on to someone in need, which I picked up and passed on to Ruben and the Ash St window-washing crew.

Our ‘koha trolley’ has grown into ‘koha tables’ after volunteer Steph organised a big donation of clothes and blankets from her fellow staff members at Prospect School in Glen Eden. We’ve also received donated books from the library and a supporter of FTS.

Guests checking out the koha tables

 

I Love Avondale

There was an uptick in businesses reaching out this month. For example, Megazone West got in touch to offer free game vouchers for the school holidays so I ran a competition for those;  Snap Fitness asked if I could promote their opening and new members could  get a discount if they mentioned my post; Avondale Physiotherapy weren’t getting good numbers to their pilates class at the Community Fale, so they asked if I could promote it.

Took some young ones I met through FTS to Megazone West who gave me comp tickets

Community and Recreation Hub

There was a big community cleanup of the old 3 Guys site in preparation for the proposed temporary hub onsite. There was a really big turnout and the volunteers left the place the cleanest I’ve ever seen it, before the Fire Service added the finishing touch with a big hose down. At this time, my role was to support the project which I did by creating the cleanup flyer and helping out a (small) bit on the day.

Just some of the cleanup crew

Together We Are Avondale: August ’17

Feed the Streets

We had our third and fourth meals during August and saw a big surge in growth, with 10-15 guests at each one. While we’ve only had a small number of return guests across the first four meals, we’ve had around 25 different people come through which is encouraging. The reasons some haven’t returned will vary depending on the individual. For example, some people don’t have a good handle on days/times and struggle to keep ‘appointments’, people’s situations can change quickly and the weather can make a difference when many walk to our meal.

To date, our guests vary in age from late-teens to pensioners, but are predominantly male. Some are living rough, in lodges, the caravan park, pensioner housing or in temporary situations with family/friends. Mental health, addiction issues and dysfunctional families are pretty common issues, but almost everyone that’s come through has been friendly and open with us.

We’ve also established a really strong and tight crew of volunteers, including Trevor who’s become our main chef – he used to cook for Air NZ. We have a lot more people keen to be involved, but the need isn’t there yet, plus with our core group so invested in FTS we want to prioritise them first. However, as a way of being as inclusive as possible we’ve started inviting people to bake for us so they can contribute in that way rather than ‘on the ground’. This has been well-received so far.

Meal #4 was quite a significant one for us. One of our regular volunteers, Jo was spotted in a FTS photo on I Love Avondale by her social development classmate at Unitec, Amelia. Amelia then contacted us about contributing some blankets, which we welcomed. She turned up on the night with not only blankets, but male and female care packages that she’d put together herself and a real enthusiasm to contribute. Reacting to this, we set up a koha trolley and when another volunteer, Tom saw this he rushed home to get boxes of shoes, hats and clothes to add to the table. The koha trolley was a success and over half of what was on there went.

Another unexpected outcome on the night was an impromptu cypher. Volunteer Tom is a well-known and respected local MC and with Ronnie on the guitar/Chris on the piano he kicked some rhymes with five youngsters aged 15-20 that came through. We’ve since built a good relationship with those young guys who loved the experience, saying that they’d never been to anything like FTS and that they felt really comfortable there.

Another notable development was that two Unitec creative arts students contacted Leilani about creating a short doco on FTS for their course. We’re currently in talks about that.

Whau Pacific Festival

The Creative Souls Project (TCSP) led the festival and did a great job of providing a solid range of events showcasing our Pasifika people, food and cultures. There were five days of events this year, many of which were based in Avondale.  The Pacific Short Film Night at the Hollywood Cinema was awesome and my pick was definitely “Waiting”, shot in Manurewa by a southsider and written by a west Aucklander. I also went to the Whau Fresh Tea Room at our Community Centre, which was a festival wrap-up event with a free feed and entertainment from TCSP, Groove House and SUPA. While the food was free, TCSP invited attendees to donate a can of food for our FTS initiative. They also gave us heaps of unused food leftover from the festival as well, which has been a massive help. Big love to D and Mal from The Creative Souls for looking out for us. Check out the festival on Facebook, here.

3 Guys

A public meeting was held on the 22nd to workshop ideas for a temporary community and recreation hub on the old 3 Guys site. There were about 30 people in attendance including local residents, business owners, council reps, creatives and community groups.

The aim of the workshop was to identify some of the best ideas from public consultation via social media (like I Love Avondale), and on the street by Leilani and the Whau Youth Board. In groups, we discussed how these ideas might work in the space using maps to draw up how everything could look and fit.

The next steps are for the convening group behind the project to fine tune these workshopped ideas, then preparing the site and sussing out the funding to get some quick wins happening. At this time, Together we are Avondale’s role in this project is just to provide support by helping communicate what’s happening.

Miscellanous

Behind the scenes, we are also continuing work on other initiatives of our own, including:

  • An asset map collating what’s available in Avondale
  • A pilot initiative to setup a community fridge at a school aimed at providing food for kids in need and possibly their parents
  • A monthly community newsletter covering local people, businesses, events, news and showcasing kids’ school work

Together We Are Avondale: July ’17

Feed the Streets

After a couple of months of planning and preparation we launched Feed the Streets in July with our first 2 meals. The turnout of streeties – for us we’ve defined this as anyone that spends a lot of time on the street, whether they currently have a home or not – was small as expected, with 3 at the first and 4 at the second. I say expected, because we were deliberately trying to keep promotion of the initiative limited to word of mouth to ensure we were reaching the right people.

In these early days our main focus is establishing ourselves as a reliable fortnightly meal provider and building relationships with our guests to earn their respect and trust. While we ultimately want to involve our streeties in the cooking and have them supported by relevant services that will be invited to attend, we’re still some way off that happening. That said, a couple of our guests at these first 2 meals helped out in the kitchen and with setup/pack down which was cool to see.

Out of respect for their privacy I won’t go into any individual’s details here, but it’s fair to say there are some really serious issues out there. In that regard, it’s been nice providing a warm and welcoming environment with food (there and to take) for people facing some difficulties.

Another major positive for us has been the buy-in from our community and massive contribution from our volunteers. We actually have more people wanting to be involved than we have a need at this time, which is a great problem to have. The way everyone – volunteers and donors – have come together has been inspiring and we’re really grateful to have their support as we try and grow this initiative over time.

Asset Map

Leilani has begun collecting information for our Asset Map project, which will be like a directory of services, parks, businesses etc in Avondale. The reason for this is that a commonly shared issue for our residents is a lack of awareness of what’s happening and available in Avondale.

To date, this project has involved a lot of research online, walking/driving the neighbourhood and contacting people to get a better sense of their organisation/company. It’s also been a great opportunity for Lays to tell people about our wider Together We Are Avondale project and to encourage them to follow I Love Avondale to stay in the loop.

As the information gathering phase starts to near its end, we’ll be having more detailed discussions about how this info will be presented and where. At this stage, we aim to make it available online as an interactive page, as well as a PDF version with a limited run of hard copies held at places like the library and Citizens Advice Bureau.

TAG Meeting

Late-July we held our latest Together We Are Avondale Advisory Group (TAG) meeting at the Rosebank Peninsula Church to update our stakeholders with our progress so far. We covered our major initiatives so far like our 2 Neighbour’s Day events and Feed the Streets, and briefly mentioned others that we supported rather than led. In addition, I spoke more in-depth about our communications strategy and how I Love Avondale has been central to that, and Lays spoke about her work to date on the aforementioned Asset Map.

Together We Are Avondale: June ’17

In June, we had an internal Together we are Avondale planning day and a couple of other catch ups around that. The main aims were to take stock of what we’d achieved so far and to make sure our next actions were in line with the project’s overarching outcomes.

Our Advisory Group established these outcomes late-2016 and with them in mind, the next projects we’re focused on are the following:

  • An asset map – creating a directory and/or map showing all of the facilities and services available in Avondale
  • A newsletter – this will become a key source of up-to-date local news and information
  • A monthly events calendar – an interactive calendar capturing and promoting one-off public events

While planning for these projects is happening behind the scenes, we’ve also been continuing to work on Feed the Streets. Late-June we had a trial run which acted as an opportunity to work alongside our volunteers and get a better idea of how the night could/should function. The trial was successful in terms of our processes and it was great to establish that we can comfortably cater for up to 40 people.

However, of the 35+ people in attendance all were interested volunteers and none were streeties. Ironically (and sadly), there was a young guy sleeping right outside the venue. He couldn’t be woken from a deep sleep and going by the dime bag and can cone beside him he was probably out of it so Lays left him a container of food instead. A crew of window washers at the Ash St/Rosebank lights and the guys from ACES were invited as well, but none turned up. As a result, we’ve had a few discussions around ensuring the space we create has the right vibe, how to reach more of our vulnerable people and how to motivate the ones that are aware of us to come – for example, is the venue, day or time appropriate?

In June I also met with a few local people keen to contribute to FTS in some way. The Avondale Baptist Church has expressed interest in potentially preparing the food for us and musician Tom Scott has offered to volunteer on some meal nights, and also to use his platform for a food drive. It’s been really encouraging having the support of our community and collaboration is key to FTS being an ongoing success.

There has also been progress on the development of the old 3 Guys site in the town centre, which is being led by the NPT with support from Community Waitakere and others. Two shipping containers donated by Ports of Auckland have been placed onsite and the plan is to have a gym inside one, with the other being used as a community workshop space. There has also been a planning meeting and discussions online about what people would like to see in the space. You can read the discussions stimulated by I Love Avondale here and here.