MP fears rise in people living rough

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
brian mcglone
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

MY HOME, MY CASTLE: Brian McGlone has finally got a Housing NZ house, in Titahi Bay, after bouncing around short-term accommodation for eight years.

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The closure of last-resort accommodation has put the crunch on already full-up emergency housing in Porirua.

Mana MP Kris Faafoi said the rooms available to people who needed urgent accommodation were set to "diminish to nothing" after two more buildings on the old Kenepuru Hospital grounds were closed in February.

The number of buildings on the site rented to private accommodation providers, such as Villas Kenepuru, has halved to five since 2011.

Villas Kenepuru leases several buildings on the Government-owned land at the hospital, and lets rooms by the week. According to Faafoi, they are often filled by people with addictions or mental health problems.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson told Parliament last month that the worst buildings on the site had been demolished or closed to protect the health and safety of all residents at Kenepuru.

In a letter to tenants, Villas Kenepuru management said the Office of Treaty Settlements had indicated more buildings would close in the next eight months.

People were sometimes referred to the Aotea Camping Grounds but, with a supermarket proposed for that site, options were running dry, Faafoi said.

"These people are now being forced to find alternative accommodation in an environment where there is no formal emergency housing, and low-cost private options are squeezed. If the problem is not solved, we will see a rise in the number of people living rough in Porirua."

Citizens Advice Bureau Porirua manager Sandra Andrews said she had been with the organisation for 10 years, in which time the demand for emergency housing had been constant, but the supply had reduced. "There isn't any - that's the bottom line."

Officially, CAB saw between four and eight people a month who needed urgent accommodation, but the need was actually much greater, she said.

Porirua Community Ministries manager Miriama Simanu said the Salvation Army had three houses available for emergency accommodation, but they were often full and the organisation prioritised women and children.

"The demand of people who urgently need a place to stay has risen in the last couple of years . . . with the villas going to be demolished, something needs to be done, because where are those people going to go?"

One of the lucky ones

Brian McGlone describes his new Housing New Zealand flat in Titahi Bay as "bloody Buckingham Palace".

It is a castle compared with the rundown hostel on the old Kenepuru Hospital grounds where he had lived for the past eight years, renting a room through Villas Kenepuru, or Villa K as it was known to tenants.

"The place was full of mice, rats and cockroaches . . . they were a bit slow on getting things fixed, they didn't like people complaining. They were putting every man and his dog in there at one stage, and it was a bit rough."

Despite the conditions, he was disappointed to have found himself without a bed as a result of the latest building closures on the hospital grounds. He had been looking at a stint in his car if Work and Income had not come to the party with some cash, allowing him to stay at a local camping ground.

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A staffer at Mana MP Kris Faafoi's office then supported him to find a recently refurbished Housing NZ flat, and McGlone said it had been the best thing for him. Staying in "a dive" did not give anyone an incentive to get their lives sorted.

"It doesn't give them any incentive to change, it doesn't give them a start. That's what they need, somewhere respectable to get a life and move on." 

- The Dominion Post

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