Des­per­ate plight as rental hikes hit home­less the hard­est

Bay of Plenty Times - - Local News - Donna Love Tommy Wil­son

When the cost of rental prop­er­ties in Tau­ranga goes through the roof, the home­less go fur­ther through the hole in the floor — and the hole is get­ting deeper and their plight more des­per­ate by the due date of next month’s rent.

When we in the emer­gency hous­ing sec­tor see the head­line “Rents Jump 130pc in 20 years” (News, Oc­to­ber 29) it sends shiv­ers down my staff’s spines, be­cause we know what’s com­ing.

The more in­creases in rent, the more are home­less — the equa­tion is that sim­ple.

It’s a bit like a Dutch dyke that can no longer with­stand the pres­sure of the ris­ing tide and not even a fist — let alone a fin­ger of com­mu­nity kind­ness — can stop the flood of fam­i­lies who are find­ing it harder and harder to find a home. On Tues­day morn­ing on Oc­to­ber 30 at 11.11 (there’s that time again), I could hear the joy­ful sound of chil­dren chat­ter­ing and play­ing out­side my of­fice door.

So, I went to find the source of such mer­ri­ment and found a neatly dressed, well man­nered and happy fam­ily, with a mother who had pride in her pride of beau­ti­ful ta­mariki.

Donna Love and her seven chil­dren had been tent-bound in a cold, damp dive un­til they showed up at our front door.

Low on kai, home com­forts and most of all hope, Donna is the face of many fam­i­lies who just want to look af­ter their kids in a safe, dry whare.

What was dif­fer­ent to the out­side world but not to us at the front line of home­less­ness is Donna and her whanau didn’t fit the pro­file of a home­less fam­ily.

Therein lays the first and pos­si­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge when it comes to find­ing a so­lu­tion for those who sleep in tents, garages and in cars.

We, as a so­ci­ety, seem to have adopted a per­cep­tion of what a home­less pro­file looks like.

Broke, bro­ken-hearted, liv­ing off the state and not wor­thy of be­ing a good ten­ant. Not so, the many moth­ers like Donna who we meet al­most on a daily, if not weekly, ba­sis.

Un­til we can ac­cept by un­der­stand­ing that many moth­ers can­not pro­vide for their kids for a raft of dif­fer­ent rea­sons, the down­stream ef­fect will most cer­tainly be a ghet­toi­sa­tion of towns and cities like Tau­ranga.

Donna gave it her very best shot and came up short.

So short that she was left to look af­ter her flock in a tent on her mother’s back­yard and even then, she was forced to va­cate from mum’s be­cause it was jeop­ar­dis­ing her mum’s ten­ancy.

So, by the time she reached her last re­sort at our front door, Donna was des­per­ate, hav­ing packed up her tent and her seven kids and spent their first night sleep­ing in her eight-seater peo­ple mover.

Sure, the scep­tics and the Ngati Whingers will point the bone of blame and ask “Where’s the fa­ther?” or “Why isn’t she work­ing?” — but the re­al­ity is we are not all dealt the same cards in life, and for some, the deck seems stacked against them from day one.

Who of us could take on a tent with seven kids and still have them look­ing well kept and as well man­nered as any fam­ily in any sec­tor of so­ci­ety?

They say true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion can only take place when we all start look­ing af­ter each other in our back­yard.

For many, the an­swer is found in their faith but some­times the back­bone of be­lief that many Chris­tian folks pre­scribe — “to be like Je­sus” — has left many a home­less fam­ily car­ry­ing their cross.

We have a say­ing in our of­fice that goes “hands that serve are holier than lips that pray”, and for us, it’s all about the ser­vice we can give to those who need it most, and the re­wards come in the faces on fam­i­lies like Donna Love and her seven kids.

For those po­ten­tial God-lov­ing land­lords out there, we as ad­vo­cates on be­half of the home­less need you to wear a ko­rowai of em­pa­thy — just like our Bro Je­sus.

Make your whare live­able. What is added to the in­voice of to­mor­row’s ten­ants who can­not af­ford the cost of to­day’s $465 aver­age weekly rental are the grow­ing num­ber of op­por­tunis­tic land­lords who know they have a cap­tive mar­ket and have no con­science in al­low­ing moth­ers like Donna to move into a some­times un­ten­able res­i­dence, where mould and cold go hand in hand, and the con­di­tion of some car­pets are reminders of a swill­soaked pub­lic bar floor.

In my view surely there should be a code of con­duct or a War­rant of Rental Fit­ness for des­per­ate house­less moth­ers to be pro­tected by?

Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.

Thank­fully MSD, TCC and the com­mu­nity of Tau­ranga Moana stood up for Donna and her kids, and tonight they sleep safely and warmly.

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