The institution of the boarding house
There is a well-known saying that an Englishman’s home is his castle. It is slightly different for us Welsh people.
It was decreed in the 12th century by an English king that ‘‘Welshmen shall not have castles’’. Since then Welshmen have been adamant that they will have castles.
Having been manager of the Hamilton Christian Nightshelter Trust for the last seven years I have witnessed homelessness on the coal face. The people I have met who enter the shelters have astounded me by their ability to survive some of the horrific events that have occurred in their lives.
I was asked the other day by a local business man what I would do to solve the homelessness problem here in Hamilton.
What I do know is that many of the men and women who arrive at the shelter require ongoing support to retain accommodation and they require accommodation that is affordable and suitable.
Many readers would remember the boarding houses that used to exist in Hamilton prior to their closure in the late 1990s.
St Vincent de Paul had a fourbed hostel in Frankton and this closed in 1994 due to being unsafe.
Post Office apartments accommodated 10 people and this was sold in 1998 for the casino to be built. Grand Hotel (Loaded Hog) accommodated 20 people and this closed in 1996 when it was sold.
Empire Hotel accommodated 20 people and this closed in 1995 when it burned down. Riverview accommodated 20 people and this closed in 1997 when it was demolished. Anchorage accommodated 24 people and this closed in 1998 when it was classified as unsafe.
All these options were available for those who were on a tight budget, or were transient by nature or were grappling with their mental wellbeing.
The owners of some of these boarding houses kept the residents in line and made sure they paid their rent, the residents had company from others and could also retreat to their rooms to seek time alone.
At the same time during the 1990s we also had the ‘‘Community Care’’ model where those in institutions were sent on their way with some support which has over the years slowly slipped away.
Many people who come to the shelters have mental health issues and require support in between episodes of wellness; they require support to remain on medication and most of all they require somewhere to live and the company of others.
So to get back to the businessman’s question. I would re-invent the institution of the boarding house, I would make them into safe places for the guests.
I would ask that funded organisations which provide social housing and benefits for those who are living with mental health issues or finding it difficult to retain accommodation stop spending money on temporary fixes and plan long term for single people who find it difficult to survive.
Not all individuals fit into the neo-liberalistic ideology that maintains that individuals can look after themselves. HAVE YOUR SAY Email news and views to steve.edwards@ fairfaxmedia.co.nz