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Regenerate: Wellington IT Project Manager Tackles Homelessness

25 Oct 2018

On a cold winter morning, all Simon Dodd could think about was getting down Courtenay Place to the warmth of the gym as quickly as possible. 

Despite his hurry, he couldn’t help but notice the number of people sleeping in doorways and alleyways, rugged up against the bitter cold. 

Having encountered similar scenes back home, the IT Project Manager racked his brain for ways he could help and came across a familiar solution.  

“Overseas, street newspapers and magazines are everywhere. Globally, there are around 100 street magazines operating in over 30 countries. I was surprised that no Wellington version had been created yet,” says Simon.

A street newspaper or magazine is an easy-to-print publication created to be on-sold by the poor or homeless. Simon had seen the system work in the UK and wanted to know if Wellington would embrace it in the same way.  

He set out gathering a team of writers, a photographer, a designer, and a printer. Simon pitched the initiative to Rieger’s Print and Copy, who were interested and generously offered the printing at cost-price.

“This meant the magazine could be provided to the street seller at $2.50 and on sold for $5 allowing them to double their money. $5 seems like a good price for a quality magazine that highlights the current attractions of the region, as well as supporting a good cause.”

Every month, guest writers create pieces for the magazine. So far, the magazine has included features from Home Grown, Cuba Dupa, Comedy Festival, Wellington Jazz festival, RNZB (Royal New Zealand Ballet, NZIFF (New Zealand International Film Festival) WOAP (Wellington On A Plate), World Of WearableArt (WOW) and features from Wellington Phoenix, Wellington Hurricanes and the Pulse Netball team.

Team at pride

Regenerate is a hybrid magazine, covering arts, culture and street, with a combination of features, artwork and poetry from Wellington’s homeless community.

“I hope that by reading the seller’s stories, Wellingtonians might reconsider some of their assumptions about homelessness and the people affected by it,” explains Simon.

“I knew very little about homelessness when I started Regenerate. I just wanted to do something practical to help, so I learned along the way - literally hitting the ground running.

“If you walk past someone with a sign asking for money and you give them $5, you don’t actually help that person to stand up and find work. Regenerate gives people a reason to get up and do something with their day, it provides a purposeful activity.” 

Simon has seen positive results already. Experienced sellers train new recruits independently and some of the men have found full-time work. Sellers finish the day with cash in their pockets and a sense of pride and belonging.  

“An initiative like Regenerate can be challenging, but it definitely has its rewarding moments. It’s awesome to see people put their sign and hat away and start selling the magazine.”

Simon, contributed the initial investment to kick off the project and run the first issue. Now in its ninth month, he says the team is successfully working through most of the challenges they face including strategies for selling, social stigma, and funding.  

Wellington’s cashless society is a big issue for the sellers, so the team opts to sell at local markets (Harbourside and Newtown). Markets have repeat shoppers who carry cash – perfect customers for the magazine.  

Regenerate also battles stigma around its public perception. The publication often gets confused for religious handouts or political material. Simon assures all customers that Regenerate is apolitical and focused on Wellington events and people, not religion.  

Funding remains the biggest challenge for Regenerate. Paid advertising in the magazine helps to cover costs but more will be needed if the magazine is to have a sustainable future. 

Simon believes that Wellingtonians are open-hearted and will embrace the magazine as they begin to understand its values and intentions. Supporting Regenerate is a practical way Wellingtonians can work together to better understand homelessness in their city, he says. 

“I want the people of Wellington to follow their hearts. I see people approach the sellers and engage in discussion, leaving with a better understanding of what Regenerate and homelessness is. That’s our goal.” 

Since its launch Regenerate has received a huge amount of community support, as well as from various arts and culture organisations, and has sold several thousand copies.

Regenerate’s first Birthday is on 25 November 2018 at the Grand Steak house, 69 Courtney Place from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. Everyone is welcome to attend and support the initiative which has already helped many people across Wellington. Email Simon for more information: [email protected]

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