What did they do for him when he was alive?

The death of the homeless man, Ben Hana, who lived on Wellington’s waterfront, has brought out the hand-wringers, including some who are blaming society.

It’s easy to feel sorry when someone has died but what did they do to help him when he was alive and what are they actually going to do to make a difference now he has died?

Where does personal responsibility end and society’s start?

It’s not easy to help someone who makes bad choices and is addicted to alcohol and other drugs.

It seems to me that many are trying to make this man something more in death than he was in life which will change nothing.

The best way to help would be to donate to one of the many charities that actually do something positive rather than just wringing hands and glorifying a sorry individual.

4 Responses to What did they do for him when he was alive?

  1. Andrei says:

    He was of course a very ill man – it challenges us, do we institutionalize people like him and if we do is it for our benefit and comfort or for his?

    Such people are exceptionally difficult to deal with on a personal level – God alone knows what demons torment them

    It’s a test I think – let’s pray that he is a peace now.

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  2. Gravedodger says:

    I understand he declined many attempts to help (as many of us understand help to be) him but maybe how he lived gave him a satisfaction beyond our ken.
    Public display of his genitals and the smell was seen as upsetting by many but Robertsons corpse cuddling is worse in my book.

    May Ben rest easy, 20 years as part of the city scene made a bigger mark than many and that includes his MP.

    I struggle with the leaving such tortured souls to live outside the walls but it is clearly more humane if the Pt is not a danger to others and from all accounts if you didn’t look that was the case here.

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  3. Richard says:

    Ben Hana’s death and the circumstances ( its been reported that he had been traumatised by the death of a friend) leads me to think that he may well have been suffering from PTSD -“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. This condition has only been formally recognised in recent years because of the large number of solders exhibiting irrational behavior after coming back from a war zone – the armed forces in the UK is a typical example where there are many ex-service people living on the streets as a result of – among other things- PTSD, (sorry -cannot give numbers).

    I remember cadging a ride on a NZRAF Hercules from Singapore in the late 60’s, to NZ while I was serving in the British Army. Among the passengers were NZ soldiers who clearly exhibited a severe form of PTSD. Young at the time, I could not explain to myself what had happened to these soldiers.

    PTSD might explain why veterans from WW2 (not many of them left) were reluctant to record their experiences.

    But PTSD is not confined to the military; Ben Hana’s demons have now left him. May he rest in peace

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  4. Ross says:

    I had walked past Ben Hana several times when in Wellington, and enquired of colleagues involved in the relevant sectors, who were more informed than me, what was, had been done as I was concerned. Ben had been, and continued to be offered pretty much every form of government agency and voluntary sector help available – for example there was always a bed in a shelter or emergency house if he needed it. My understanding is that there is a core of about 30 people who live on the streets in Wellington, who like Ben simply don’t want societies help offered to them. A wide range of assistance is available, but their street dwelling appears to be a lifestyle choice.

    Similarly, where I live there was for many years a man who walked up the main street picking up and eating food scraps from rubbish receptacles. The man passed away a few years ago. His story was that he was the son of a very wealthy family, and had any amount of financial resources available to him if he wanted. Something has flipped at some stage, and this appeared to be his way of living as a result. It certainly concerned people, but he wasn’t about to change.

    Whatever health issues (mental, addiction or otherwise) that leave people in these states there are always going to be a very small minority who simply refuse help and opt out of society in some way or another – street living, going bush, whatever.

    So, short of sticking them in an institution (which would probably kill them) what to do in the compassionate and caring society that New Zealand is.

    As a society we seem to have adopted the position that we will help where we can – food, shelter, clothes etc. when required, and then give people a fair bit of slack. In Ben’s case unless he was being particularly offensive on a given day, he wasn’t hassled by authorities – he was allowed to live as he wanted and be part of Wellington.

    I don’t think we need to hand wring about Ben, or blame society. New Zealand I think has adopted a compassionate, caring, tolerant and pragmatic position around such individuals.

    Those that demand heavy handed state intervention to ‘solve’ the perceived problem should read a bit of German and Russian history. Such people were rounded up by authorities and put in ‘camps’. In Germany’s case this started in the mid-to-late 1930’s, in Russia’s – just part of the general misery. Those that went into camps did not survive. The homeless, vagabonds and mentally ill disappeared a long time before the Jews in Germany. Do not wish for it……..

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