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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 2. 7th March 1973


There are two kinds of alcoholics in this country; the social drinker, who hides behind the fancy concrete and brick walls of their mansions in Karori, Khandallah, and Oriental Bay; and the "down and outs", the dregs of society who visit the soup kitchen in Buckle Street, sleep out in the Basin Reserve, in the Night Shelter, and houses like 14 Ohiro Road, and 29-31 Abel Smith Street. The community only sees the latter group although they are less of a social nuisance than the people in power who have to rely on their social drinking to face life. Most people prefer to turn their heads the other way and ignore the problem, even the Government neglects its responsibility, leaving the bulk of the work to be done by voluntary organisations and individuals.

Image of a man sleeping on the street

One such organisation is the Wellington City Mission, headed by the Rev. Walter Arnold (a Canon in the Anglican church). The Mission hands out the $21 per week Social Security benefit to the alcoholics at $2 a day for four days a week, and $3 or $4 on Friday. This leaves a balance of $9 or $10 a week which according to the Rev. Arnold goes towards board or rent, if the beneficiary has somewhere to stay. But what happens to the $10 which belongs to those who have nowhere to live? The Mission says that the money is deposited in bank accounts and is used to pay for any convalescent expenses or specialists fees. However, very few ever get this sort of treatment, so that the money keeps on growing in these bank accounts waiting to be claimed.

Many of the alcoholics are unhappy with the way their money is being kept from them. Some alcoholics say that Arnold has as much as $1700 in trust, but they have never seen it. Most believe they will never see it either. No doubt many may treat their claims as fanciful, but when Salient interviewed Arnold he refused to be drawn on the topic and would not say what happened to money that is not claimed or is left after someone dies.