It’s not so long ago that Natasha and Gordon Smith were homeless. Their eldest daughter, Miracle, was conceived while they were finding shelter at an Edwardian home in Christchurch, featured in Peter Jackson’s 1994 film, Heavenly Creatures.
“Today we live in a beautiful home, have two beautiful children and I’m working,” says Gordon.
When Natasha was pregnant with Miracle, she and Gordon spent nine months going to Housing NZ (Kāinga Ora) and every possible network trying to find a home. They “ate out of a rubbish bin,” before eventually finding a “beautiful rental home” through Visionwest’s Canterbury Community Housing Service.
Gordon credits Natasha with saving him. “If we hadn’t met, I’d probably be in prison, in a gang lifestyle … I’d be dead or in jail, it’s pretty simple,” he says.
Gordon spent twenty years on the street and remains in regular contact with the homeless community and, with Natasha, is now speaking out to help others who are struggling to find housing.
“Since COVID-19, there is a new breed of homeless youth,” says Gordon. “They’re 13 to 18-year-olds and, in recent weeks, I’ve seen some as young as 12 drunk and begging for money. I also see a lot of synthetic drug abuse. A lot of them are struggling to find help. There are hundreds of people waiting for homes and it’s growing by the day.”
But having a home doesn’t miraculously cure every issue either, says Gordon. “There’s still never quite enough, we’re only just making ends meet, only just making it through to the next pay day. Even working fulltime, we still go to a food bank and, now that the temp work has dried up, I might be out of work soon. The struggle is real regardless of whether you’re on the street or in a house.”
Clean for nearly three years, Gordon was an alcoholic for twenty years and was addicted to synthetic drugs for two years.
“A big thing was when my daughter saw me having a seizure … in her eyes physically dying,” he says. “I looked at her and thought ‘this is the last thing I’m going to see, her looking at me’.”
In his back garden in Kaiapoi, Gordon reads and plays with his daughters. It’s a simple moment, but he doesn’t take anything for granted. “Where I am now is what I dreamed of when I was 11 or 12. I have a wife, kids and house,” he says. “I never thought it would happen for me, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Gordon and Natasha’s story is taken from an article originally published in Stuff. You can read the full Stuff article HERE.