Let me count the homes—a poem about not being homeless

In New Zealand as elsewhere, far too many are homeless and forced to be sleeping rough on the streets or in parks. I am immensely privileged to have had at least 25 homes. Even my most primitive shelter had a bed, an electric kettle, and running water. 

These are the homes I have lived in
for better or for better.

Fairlie cold and ghostly
Akaroa sweet relief
Hinds on a wide and windy plain
Belfast frogs and freezing works
Christchurch finally our own
Christchurch boarding
Christchurch flat
Geneva teeny studio
Geneva over a brothel
Versoix baby by the rails
Masterton rental
Masterton bungalow
Berhampore semi
Wadestown rosebuds
Sydney sailing above it all
Taranaki asbestos shack
Puponga swans and tidal flats
Cashmere flat without a kitchen
Taranaki relocate
Lake Ferry possums in the roof
Paekakariki bach by the sea
Lowry Bay cottage by the posh
Kyoto ancient wooden nest
Mukaijima academia
and home to roost in Wellington
1940 art deco
like me.

Good, bad or very good
I’ve always had tiles or tin
to protect my head
always a shelter, always a bed.

Rachel McAlpine

A small shack (LUCKY) and a person sleeping rough under a tree in a storm (NOT). Let me count the homes.

32 thoughts on “Let me count the homes—a poem about not being homeless

  1. alison41 says:

    Loved it! what a wonderful way to list your abodes. I’ve also gypsied around, and finally settled in my current abode 11 years ago – longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I’m inspired to write something similar.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Do write your own version! I’ve been in my current place for 24 years. Divine.

  2. I love this, and think that I exceed this number. I must count them!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It’s interesting to look back, isn’t it?

  3. 20 odd years, give and take a few more in one rental – a large house which finally housed only me – damp, problematic but as social housing list would forever say “you’ve a roof over your head and you can afford the rent…” never mind the fact and it continues today in new rental… and yes I owned a home once, but the marriage break and division of finances,then health issues put me on back foot of home ownership!

    I live in a very large city that is growing housing every which way – I was riding my bus to B/Bay the other week, bingo another old house on a large section no more…now I see they have diggers in and security wire fencing around it; And where there was one social house on a 1/4 acre section – whole big groups of them gone…bare land with security fencing informing us that “dry and warm housing coming here…soon” and it’s not just one block, but many blocks…

    Apparently these new houses/apartments are for the homeless…but we keep hearing there still isn’t enough housing. There is certainly no where for the kids to play, the Mum/Dad to take in the sun…

    I wonder…

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It’s hard hard hard. What once seemed natural and right and achievable is out of reach for the majority now and the problems do my head in. I was in a lucky generation of home owners.

  4. Alien Resort says:

    I’ll bet you’re a minimalist; otherwise you couldn’t move that much.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Well now, I have lived in this home for 26 years.

  5. Prue Denso says:

    What wonderful memories your poem evokes of my many homes. But like you 26 years in my current abode!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      At last we find the right place at the right time and all the running around is over.

  6. Su Leslie says:

    I love this Rachel.

    I suspect I’d probably clock up a similar number; though I’ve been in the current place for almost 20 years — five times longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m seeing a pattern and I fit it too. Move move move and then stop and put down roots. Perfect.

      1. Su Leslie says:

        I’d be quite keen to uproot and move out of Auckland. The current house has never felt like a forever home for me, but it was a lovely place to raise my son.

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Oh I see. That’s significant. Now what…

      3. Su Leslie says:

        Still under discussion with significant other. 😀

      4. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Good luck!

      5. Su Leslie says:


  7. mitchteemley says:

    I’m impressed, Rachel! You’ve made a truly engaging poem of a housing list.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Ha ha! You noticed.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I had no idea that the homeless were a problem in New Zealand. I had some kind of rosy illusion about your country.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Sadly we struggle with similar problems to other countries. Nowhere is perfect.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        Promptly went on line and read up on it.

  9. Eli Pacheco says:

    What a wonderful way to remember and appreciate the places we’ve lived. I’ve put it on my list to do the same! Glad to have found your blog.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Good, I’m delighted to think of you (and others) writing your own versions! Nice to meet you, Eli.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        I’ll be sure to link to yours. I have a few places!

  10. You’re an inspiration, Rachel. Got me thinking. We just sold our home of 32 years, but then I started counting… and wow… tally climbing… and I’m going to write my own ode to the homes I’ve lived in. Thank you, for your generous creativity. XX

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Do write it! I look forward to this.

  11. Gallivanta says:

    Oh the homes I have known, put in a po(e)me. There are many on my list,too, but like you and others this place has been home for almost 20 years.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Sounds like a keeper!

      1. Gallivanta says:


  12. Anonymous says:

    Thrilled to learn you lived in Fairlie on the South Island. My husband spent several months in that lovely village back in 1987 and loved it: the location, the scenery, the people. One of my favorite places to live.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hello fellow Fairliophile!

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