Homeless Christchurch couple sleep in dunes

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 13/07/2012
North New Brighton Community Centre
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

COLD COMFORT: A now homeless couple try to keep warm on another cold night near North New Brighton Community Centre.

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More than 100 people are still on Christchurch's Housing New Zealand (HNZ) waiting list, including a couple who say they were forced to sleep between the New Brighton sand dunes.

However, a HNZ spokeswoman said the numbers on the waiting list had dropped, and she urged people who need a home to come forward.

The couple have told The Press of how they were forced to "snuggle together" on the beach when they returned to their home town last week.

After four months in the North Island, they returned home on Wednesday last week and faced unaffordable rental prices, overcrowded family members and a HNZ waiting list.

For the first two nights they stayed at a relative's house but had to move on when the landlord found 11 people were living in the three-bedroom home.

On Monday night, desperate for shelter, they sneaked into their storage container in Linwood and tried to sleep between the furniture, but a security guard kicked them out.

The homeless pair had spent some nights "cuddled up in the doorway of a church" near the beach and others "snuggled together for warmth between the sand dunes", and said they had joined about eight other rough sleepers at New Brighton Beach.

The couple, who have been together for 17 years and were too ashamed to be named, said a HNZ representative told them 300 people were ahead of them on the waiting list and it would take up to three months to get a house.

However, HNZ said yesterday that the waiting list stood at 104.

HNZ southern tenancy services manager Symon Leggett said that because allocation of state houses was "based on need", it was not possible to say when the couple would get a house.

Work and Income has paid for the couple to stay in a hotel for the past three nights.

The couple said they had to shift from two rental homes last year because of earthquake damage and ended up storing their belongings and moving to the North Island.

Before the quakes, the 49-year-old man worked as a self-employed painter but said he could no longer secure a job in Christchurch as he did not have the necessary qualifications, so the pair were now beneficiaries.

He said they were "uncompetitive" in the city's rental market because of poor credit ratings and previous minor convictions.

"There's nowhere for anyone to stay in Christchurch and there's not even any place for us to wash – not unless you have money," he said.

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