Most people who are homeless are not in their situation by choice.
Rental prices in Ōtaki are high and there’s a shortage of accommodation, plus a lot of people don’t make the grade some landlords expect.
These days, rental owners and/or their property managers have their own ideas about who can apply. So if you are not a professional worker or in some cases have children, you are not wanted in that rental. Many don’t allow pets.
If you’re lucky and have made it to the emergency housing list, Winz will help pay for you to live in a motel. You will have to pay two-thirds of your income and Winz will cover the rest.
If you’re on a benefit and get the Accommodation Allowance and/or the Temporary Assistance Benefit, this is stopped. So you’ll get only the basic benefit. If you have any disabilities you will still get that benefit.
People who are not on any benefit, have been working or are lucky enough to still have their job, are struggling to afford travel to work, groceries etc.
People living in motels are there on a two or three-weekly basis, depending on what the motel and Winz agree on. Sadly some motel managers/owners will allow only week-to-week accommodation. There’s no guarantee anyone can be there for the year or even two it can take to find an affordable rental or a Kāinga Ora rental.
Emergency accommodation is limited and at present at full capacity.
It’s impossible to know the true number of individuals and families made homeless because of the lack of affordable rentals. A recent survey, however, brought plenty out of the closet. It showed homeless people were staying in pub rooms, boarding houses, campervans, cars or tents, or couch surfing with friends and family.
There are also bound to be other ways people are finding accommodation, even if it is for one night before moving on somewhere else.
My last enquiry about how many pensioners were on the Kāpiti Coast District Council housing list showed 190 people waiting for a place. There is not nearly enough public housing to accommodate them all. And there are people who don’t contact Winz because they believe nothing will eventuate, or they don’t want the stigma that also comes with it.
Funding for the infrastructure of new builds in Ōtaki has been approved, but that isn’t going to give the homeless any joy as it will be next year before building begins. Meanwhile the number of homeless people and families is increasing week by week.
What we need is someone who has land ready, and who can provide alternative housing such as caravans, mobile homes, tiny houses, campervans and so on, and provide facilities.
The swimming pool will let people use the showers, but there are so many other issues that need to be covered to make life a bit more comfortable for the homeless.
Who can offer hope, and what can they offer?
Donna has been a strong advocate for homeless people. Last month she presented a petition to Parliament asking Kāinga Ora to immediately buy land and build permanent rental accommodation to help the homeless.