I was put in contact with Lloyd via the Auckland City Mission. I didn’t know what to expect, so I went to meet Lloyd with an open mind and sure to experience and learn new things. I am sure he was thinking the same about me. We sit on the park bench outside St Matthews in the City.
Lloyd is 51 years old and has pretty much been on the streets since he was 8 years old. He is dressed in a long, dirty trench coat, black dirty pants, T-Shirt, a backpack and a stick wrapped in fabric. It’s not a walking stick, but probably a mechanism of protection or maybe just a trade-mark of his look. He has long hair dreaded in pony-tails and wears a beanie to cover the rest of his matted hair underneath.
Lloyd is one of 7 children, born in Waitara. He has lived in Auckland since the late 70s and some of his siblings are also up here…not on the streets. He chooses this lifestyle, he likes it, is use to it, but dreams of escaping on a big ship overseas somewhere. He doesn’t really care where, he just loves boats and wants to sail away somewhere and live in luxury. He says he hasn’t really indulged in any escapism lately, but says if he could be an animal he would be a Lion “because then I would be the master”.
From spending time with Lloyd, I can see that he is well-respected in his circle. We get interrupted 4 times during our hour together. The first was by a window washer. He whistles from across the road and asks Lloyd to come over to help him with something, I think he was seeing if someone they knew was down the street. The next two were locals that live in the area – working folk – stopped and said hi to Lloyd, shook his hand and asked him how he was. They seemed familiar with each other. The fourth was by a couple, Adam and Sandy. Sandy, about 50, introduces herself as a kleptomaniac and Adam, 34, straight away asks me what my occupation is. When I tell him I am an artist he strikes up a conversation that he is also an artist and wanting to go to art school. They are both drunk on wine and have been drinking since the morning. Adam is gaunt and seems more than just drunk and Sandy is also very thin, but immaculately dressed. After a while Lloyd explains that we are doing an interview, so they disappear and we continue our conversation.
Lloyd tells me that the number one rule on the streets is “food comes first, everything else falls in behind”. He has friends, or knows people, who own restaurants and dairies so he can get a feed if he wants one. He knows where to find food if he needs it. He has seen some terrible things in his time on the streets, suicides, violence and junkies. He doesn’t want to go in to details as it upsets him to bring up too much of the past. He sees couples walking down the street arguing on Friday or Saturday nights, women getting hit by their boyfriend. “The streets are not for everyone” he says, “there are people out here who shouldn’t be here, it can get dangerous at times, but if you know how to watch your back and keep your mouth shut, you can survive”.
His past is filled with crime and moving around New Zealand. He started running away from home when he was 8 years old, has been in and out of jail and hostels. He has a record for theft – of cars and other things – but no record for drugs, although he likes his marijuana. “I use to be a bad person” he says. “I have done a lot of bad things, but I have also done some good things over the years. I am old enough now to have more control of my life, not completely, but more than when I was younger”.
You would never think Lloyd is 51 years old, he looks mid 30s. He has a very youthful look, good skin under that long black beard he wears. These days he describes himself as an average guy, a few faults, but average. “Others say I am a good sort” he says. He wishes they wouldn’t say that, he doesn’t want to be seen at that guy.