Home­less and hid­den

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By LAUREN PRI­EST­LEY

THEY’RE every­where.

People are sleep­ing in cars, garages or ‘‘couch surf­ing’’ at fam­ily and friends’ houses all over Auck­land be­cause they have nowhere else to go.

And the num­ber of hid­den home­less people is ris­ing, hous­ing providers say.

One young mother who spoke to the Cen­tral Leader is liv­ing in emer­gency hous­ing pro­vided by Is­land Child Char­i­ta­ble Trust in Pt Eng­land with her two-month-old daugh­ter.

She does not want to be iden­ti­fied for fear it will hurt her chances of get­ting the Hous­ing New Zealand (HNZ) home she is on a wait­ing list for.

Her land­lord de­cided to sell her flat only a day af­ter she moved in and the woman moved from couch to couch for about four months.

The 28-year-old has no fam­ily to sup­port her and turned to Is­land Child six months ago when she ran out of op­tions.

‘‘It’s frus­trat­ing wait­ing for a house. Go­ing from couch to couch was hard be­cause you feel like you’re in­vad­ing people’s space – you don’t know how long you’ll be there.

‘‘Sleep­ing on couches is very com­mon. There’s more people out east like Pt Eng­land, Pan­mure. It’s hap­pen­ing way more now be­cause it’s so hard.’’

Is­land Child man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Danielle Ber­gin says the woman ar­rived on her doorstep with no money, no trans­port, no means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and preg­nant.

‘‘It’s very hard to be heav­ily preg­nant and ar­rive at emer­gency hous­ing then give birth and re­turn with a new­born, day-old, baby.’’

Ber­gin has helped people who’ve been sleep­ing in cars at Pt Eng­land Re­serve and fam­i­lies who’ve been liv­ing in garages.

‘‘So many of our fam­i­lies ac­tu­ally want to break the cy­cle, they don’t want to be wel­fare de­pen­dent, but the process of help­ing them is so slow. They are fall­ing through the gaps.’’

An Auck­land Coun­cil re­port this year shows about 15,000 people in Auck­land are ‘‘se­verely hous­ing de­prived’’.

Life­wise ser­vice man­ager Corie Had­dock says the ma­jor­ity of those are un­seen.

The num­ber of people com­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion has in­creased by about 80 per cent in the past year alone, he says.

A grow­ing trend is people sleep­ing in cars in park­ing lots with groups of 20 to 30 ve­hi­cles at a time, he says.

‘‘In the time I’ve been here we’ve seen the num­bers climb and climb. At some point we’re just go­ing to have to put our hands up and say ‘we’ve got a prob­lem’. We’ve got to do some­thing about it and it’s got to be done soon.

‘‘There’s a num­ber of rea­sons be­hind the rise but first and fore­most we have a hous­ing cri­sis in this city.’’

Auck­land Ac­tion Against Poverty spokes­woman Na­dia Abu-Shanab says it is of­ten the most vul­ner­a­ble people with­out homes.

A lot of people com­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion have se­ri­ous ill­nesses but wel­fare re­forms mean they are los­ing ben­e­fits, she says.

One client has a se­ri­ous heart con­di­tion but is sleep­ing un­der a bridge. An­other is stay­ing up each night in in­ter­net cafes so she has some­where warm to be.

Abu-Shanab says people are of­ten ner­vous to talk be­cause they are wor­ried they will get them­selves, or oth­ers, in trou­ble.

Over­crowd­ing and ‘‘couch surf­ing’’ can also cause a real strain on fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, she says.

‘‘They would rather have people liv­ing in their garage than on the street,’’ AbuShanab says.

‘‘There’s also this stigma. Land­lords don’t want a home­less per­son in their homes. Once you’re shut out it’s hard to get back in.’’

No home: More people are turn­ing to emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion in Auck­land be­cause they have nowhere to go.

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