Sam Brooks reviews HomeGround on the Spinoff


HomeGround: The story of a building that changes lives by Simon Wilson was reviewed on the Spinoff in January. Sam Brooks writes:

‘I see HomeGround, the new home of the Auckland City Mission, every day. I’ve seen it go from the last stages of construction to being fully open. In the space of only a few years, the place has turned from a skeleton of promise, a metallic question mark, to a true community hub — a place on lower Federal Street and Hobson Street that feels like it provides what the rest of the CBD truly lacks: community and warmth.

I imagine my impression of HomeGround aligns with most people’s, even the people who don’t see it every day. It’s a gorgeous building that puts the architecture of the apartments in the hundred metres surrounding it, direction regardless, in a harsh light. It feels modern, it feels futuristic, and it feels oddly inviting. Modern apartments can often feel like fortresses, protecting what’s within. HomeGround doesn’t feel like that, it feels like it’s openly inviting you in. What’s it all about, and how can you be a part of it?

Simon Wilson does a better job of exploring HomeGround in this new book (subtitled The Story of a Building That Changes Lives) than I can. Firstly, he’s got just under 250 pages (including gorgeous photos by Mark Smith) to do it in. Secondly, he’s had access to the people who paved, and then walked, the road that made HomeGround possible, from conception, to design, to building. Thirdly, he’s Simon Wilson. This is the journalist who can make a squabble about a pavement in Grey Lynn as compelling, rich, and detailed as a Shakespearean soap opera. If he’s got a story as layered, as rich, and as informative as the one that HomeGround has to provide him with, he’s going to do good — if not great — with it.

For those unfamiliar, HomeGround is a project that the Auckland City Mission set upon in the mid aughts with a vision to end chronic homelessness in central Auckland. The result is a building that, based on Breaking Grounds, a supporting housing model developed in New York in the 90s, delivers permanent housing, wraparound care and addiction support on the same site. The building as it stands today has 80 tenants, a clinic, a library and a kitchen. It is what it says on the tin: a homeground.

Wilson retells a story that has been in the making for nearly 20 years, from the building’s conception, through to the fundraising, design and actually building the damn thing. Throughout the book are interviews with the building’s current tenants, workers, and other people who have been key not just in making it happen, but also key to its continuation, and its unique, world-leading kaupapa.’

Read the full story here.