Homes­less plead for help from coun­cil­lors

The Press - - News - TINA LAW

Christchurch City coun­cil­lors have come to the as­sis­tance of a group of home­less peo­ple who pleaded with the coun­cil to find them a home.

‘‘We don’t want to be on the street. We want to be at home, at work and with our fam­i­lies. We want to be part of a community, but we can’t be be­cause we’re get­ting knocked down,’’ JB Wal­lace told the coun­cil dur­ing its pub­lic fo­rum sec­tion yes­ter­day.

Wal­lace and six other home­less peo­ple at­tended the meet­ing to raise aware­ness of their plight and ask for help. They had been en­cour­aged to at­tend by Cr Deon Swiggs.

‘‘We need a lot of help. Peo­ple in our midst are ed­u­cated and skilled. All they need is a sec­ond chance,’’ Wal­lace, who has been home­less for six years, said.

‘‘All I’m ask­ing for is a sec­ond chance to get skills, get a job, get a home, get a bet­ter life. We don’t want peo­ple to give us money and food. If we can get the skill to do the job, we can do that our­self.’’

Rachel Mor­gan said she had been on the streets for six weeks and had been un­able to find any­where to live.

‘‘Most of us have men­tal health is­sues. Some of us do not have ben­e­fits.‘‘

Mor­gan’s daugh­ter, Benita He­mopo, said it ‘‘sucked be­ing home­less’’. She was not able to have a shower when she felt like it.

‘‘Help us get into a home we can af­ford. Help us. It’s hard.’’

Mayor Lianne Dalziel told the group there was not a sin­gle per­son around the ta­ble who did not feel for their sit­u­a­tion. Crs Vicki Buck and Swiggs im­me­di­ately left the meet­ing and drove the group to the Otau­tahi Community Hous­ing Trust, which man­ages the coun­cil’s so­cial hous­ing units.

Trust chief ex­ec­u­tive Cate Kear­ney said she re­ceived sev­eral texts from Buck say­ing she was bring­ing a group of home­less peo­ple to her.

‘‘I like the way she op­er­ates. If there is a prob­lem, she is go­ing to solve it to­day.’’

Five of the peo­ple were of­fered emer­gency hous­ing through the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment (MSD) and two were not able to be housed be­cause they had dogs.

Two peo­ple took up the of­fer for emer­gency hous­ing and the other three de­clined in favour of the trust help­ing them to find per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Kear­ney said the trust would work with other agen­cies to find them all homes.

Swiggs said it took him two weeks to con­vince the group to come to the meet­ing be­cause they did not trust au­thor­i­ties after hav­ing been let down so many times. He wanted them to go to the meet­ing to ‘‘put a face to the real prob­lems’’.

The coun­cil is work­ing with community hous­ing providers and MSD to cre­ate a Hous­ing First ini­tia­tive aimed at putting rough sleep­ers into per­ma­nent hous­ing. The ini­tia­tive, funded by the Govern­ment, is ex­pected to be­come op­er­a­tional in Fe­bru­ary.

The Govern­ment in­vested $16.5 mil­lion in this year’s Bud­get to ex­pand Hous­ing First into ar­eas of high need across the coun­try, in­clud­ing up to 100 places al­lo­cated to Christchurch.

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