Call to restore hope for homeless through inquiry
Mervyn Beard, 57, has been homeless on and off since he was a boy.
When his rental property in the east of Christchurch was damaged in the February 22 earthquake and then needed repairs, Beard was homeless once more – "there was nothing out there for us".
He lived in a car at New Brighton beach, until he secured a Housing New Zealand property.
"The windows were warped, it was damp. But I had to take it because I couldn't afford to be homeless ... I've now lived in that house since 2012 and the house to me, is uninhabitable," he told a homeless inquiry on Friday.
He said he was recently offered a new house, which he liked, although it was very compact.
"If I complained about it I'm going to be out on the street."
Beard, was among those who presented submissions to the Cross-Party Inquiry into Homelessness.
Labour, the Green and Māori parties started the inquiry to allow agencies and individuals to share their stories off homelessness and offer solutions.
The Christchurch hearing on Friday was the second in a set of country-wide hearings. The panel included Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford and Green Party social housing spokesperson Marama Davidson.
Beard, a Collective for the Homeless representative and submitter, said it was time that agencies started engaging with each other to help the homeless.
"As a homeless person, you've got all these agencies that are there to help, but they don't talk to each other.
"If I, on the Homeless committee, knew half these agencies that are here today ... you would probably find the issues of homelessness would be helped. One hand can help the other hand."
St Thomas of Canterbury College students Alex and William McCorkindale asked the panel: "As youth, what do we have to look forward to?"
"Today we don't offer solutions you've not already heard before about the housing problem," 11-year-old Alex said.
He and William were part of a group of students who had dedicated their lunch breaks to examining Christchurch's housing issue.
William, 14, said many youths lived in unsuitable housing situations and affordable housing was scarce.
"Canterbury homes are, on average, six times the average household income. We have concerns about our own ability to purchase a home once we leave education and begin work."
William asked that the panel restore hope for the New Zealanders without homes.
"We ask you as members of parliament to take back our comments and concerns as part of the voice of the youth and its concerns around housing.
"We aren't all going to be money market dealers or hedge fund managers. Most of us will lead ordinary lives. Living in the community, our basic needs will be food, clothing and housing."
In his submission, Oxford Terrace Baptist Church senior minister Chris Chamberlain said they usually had one or two people sleeping on church property.
"Some times they want the help. Sometimes they do not want help. Sometimes they are clearly in need of more than just a bed. What is apparent is the problem seems to be growing."
Chamberlain said Christchurch faced a housing crisis, not a challenge, and it trumped other "nice-to-have things".
"It is clear we have a problem that those in power are not willing to tackle.
"I do not want a tax cut – what a cynical joke they are."