Hawkes Bay families struggle moving on from transitional housing

Nov 8, 2017 | News

In the Herald today they reported that the Ministry of Social Development, which bought the motel to provide “transitional housing” amid a widespread homeless problem throughout the country, says there are 97 transitional housing places in Napier, and it’s trying to “secure” another 125.

Read more: Affording a home in Hawke’s Bay gets tougher
Government spending millions on Hawke’s Bay emergency housing

While ministry deputy chief executive housing Scott Gallacher said the MSD is aware that the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, running the accommodation and “operating as Triple S”, has asked a small number of families to leave the facilities “as their behaviour has put other families at risk,” the women say conditions of the tenancy treat them “like criminals” and make the facilities “like Colditz”.

The women are not Women’s Refuge referrals, but say that because of a shortage of housing in Hawke’s Bay they had no option to accept restrictive conditions so they had somewhere to live.

Conditions include being allowed visitors only between 9am and 3pm, but Tania Powell has also been told she is out for a strongly-denied breach of conditions prohibiting use of illicit drugs or alcohol on site or being on-site intoxicated.

“I hate alcohol,” she said as she decided to speak publicly on the issue, saying she believed claims of intoxication were based on CCTV images – “the cameras are everywhere” – of her returning at night.

“I walk with a limp,” she says.

The women have also been told they’ve breached conditions by not showing “weekly evidence of house applications”, but Nina Rewi says the women don’t choose to live where they have been living and are constantly looking for homes – all in the same small pool of housing.

“These are our homes, we have nothing else,” said Ms Rewi.

Mr Gallacher said the ministry’s “purchasing strategy” sets out how and where it will deliver social housing places over the next four years.

“It shows that we are looking to secure an additional 125 income-related rent-subsidised places in Napier,” he said.

“We are working with a range of other agencies, including Housing New Zealand, to increase housing supply within Hawke’s Bay.”

Triple S began accepting referrals in late July, with tenants receiving wraparound services to address issues related to their homelessness, Mr Gallacher said.

Occupancy agreements set out what was expected from tenants and the provider, to ensure the safety of all families in the facility, he said.

Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges manager Julie Hart said Triple S hosts up to 12 families.

“When we were designing our service we looked at what our objectives were, hence the name Triple S; Safe, Secure, Short-term accommodation for women and children affected by homelessness,” she said.

“We looked at the vulnerability of children so the rules are around restricted visitor hours; that we are a drug and alcohol free site; no criminal activities and other common courtesies.

“A family is only ever moved on if we have, after repeated efforts, no success in getting them to adhere to the rules and that the ones that are being breeched are impacting on other families or whanau.”

Patoka man Cliff Rogers became aware of the women’s plight and says that as a human right everyone has a right to a roof over their head and a warm, liveable home.

None of the women has drugs or violence convictions, and in some cases conditions have interfered with fathers legitimate rights to visit their children, because they can’t visit them outside of school hours, they say.

“These people have done nothing wrong,” Mr Rogers said.

“They are simply people who are struggling to get along, and there is a shortage of housing in Napier, but they are being treated like criminals. You can’t just lock them up in a cage.”

He said there’d been no movement in attempts to get some leeway, despite it appearing there are several units in the complex.

The women have meetings with the Salvation Army in the hope some accommodation may become available.

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