Man hunger strikes for food vouchers
By Amanda Gillies
A Northland man who smashed Work and Income windows after he was refused a food grant has stopped eating. Sam Kuha hasn't eaten since Tuesday and says he won't until Work and Income changes its policy.
A doctor, who is due to visit him tomorrow, supports his stance.
For six days Mr Kuha has survived on little more than water with salt and sugar. It's a self-imposed diet that's left him starving and struggling to sleep and stay warm.
“You know when a man gets hungry it's bad enough,” he says. “When you get hungry you get mean. All the men are the same. I can only speak from a man's point-of-view.”
Mr Kuha is on an invalid benefit, receiving $244 a week. From that, he pays $190 in bills, which doesn't leave much for food.
“Some weeks I've got $20 to spend on food. Some weeks not because I've gone into overdraft and I don't have an overdraft facility so I get penalised $10 for going under overdraft. Just about every week I go into that overdraft because I can’t help it. I’ve got to eat.”
He was outraged when he travelled 4km in his electric wheelchair to the Kaikohe Work and Income office to request a food voucher but was instead referred to budgeting services because he had already recently received three handouts. So he lashed out.
“I went up to the front windows and I was going to smash them all. I hit one and the hammer bounced back and the next one I hit as hard as I could.”
That prompted the hunger strike. He now refuses to eat until Work and Income changes its policy.
Work and Income did serve him – a trespass order.
But Work and Income also told 3 News his overall welfare was a concern and staff had been working with his agent and other agencies to ensure he got the services he needed.
3 News spoke to Northland doctor Lance O'Sullivan, who will visit Mr Kuha tomorrow to make sure he's doing okay. He said he won't force him to eat or try to change his mind. He supports his cause. He said people can survive without food for seven to 10 days, sometimes even longer.
It is expected Mr Kuha will be charged over smashing the window.