Family falls through the gaps

Last updated 05:00 09/12/2013
nellie hunt tent
IAIN MCGREGOR

LAST DAY?: Nellie Hunt may have to move into Waltham Park with her three children.

Nellie Hunt
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
NELLIE HUNT: 'I'm on my own and I'm working and I'm raising my babies and I'm trying to do everything right, but it's not enough.'

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Welfare groups are helping a Christchurch mother and her three children move into a tent in a public park because they cannot find the family a home.

From today, Maori wardens will stand guard 24 hours a day to provide Nellie Hunt and her children some security at their tent in Waltham Park.

The family was served with a 90-day eviction notice in September when their landlord decided to sell their Waltham rental home.

Today is day 90.

Over the past three months the agencies set up to protect people in difficult situations have exhausted all options and say Hunt has "fallen through the gaps".

Hunt said: "In all my days I did not think it would come to this. I don't know what we are going to do.

"I just want a home for me and my three babies and I feel like I have failed them badly. It is the worst feeling in the world."

The single mother has been on the Housing New Zealand waiting list for months. She has applied and been rejected by dozens of rental homes and three different social agencies have combed the city for accommodation without success.

Her parents "haven't got much" and cannot take her in. Every camping ground she has contacted is full and with a teenage daughter, she is not eligible for a women's shelter.

Hunt, 35, and her children, Mahara, 16, Rawini, 11, and Manawa, 9, are now homeless.

The best option social workers could find was to pitch a tent in Waltham Park, and roster Maori wardens for protection.

A 2008 bylaw restricts the public from camping in a tent on council land, but community worker Brenda Lowe-Johnson, who is advocating for Hunt, said "there is literally nowhere else for her to go".

"We have to do the best we can and this is it. If the council are going to force her off, then they will have to find her a house first," she said.

The tent will have no power and Hunt may have to stop working temporarily as she will not be able to leave her children alone in the park during her 8pm to 4am shifts.

Hunt said it was not the first time she had failed her children.

In 2004, she handed her two daughters into Child, Youth and Family care when she realised she was an alcoholic.

She admitted herself into rehab and won her children back nine months later.

"I'm on my own and I'm working and I'm raising my babies and I'm trying to do everything right, but it's not enough."

For the past eight months, she has worked full-time at a nearby bakery for minimum wage.

She receives $290 from Working For Families each week and a $100 accommodation supplement.

Two of her children's estranged fathers pay child support, but only when they can.

The family have lived in their Waltham rental home for the past four years, paying $220 a week despite its poor condition.

The earthquakes left the lounge yellow-stickered as part of the roof fell away.

The front door opens in the wind, the floor has fallen away from the walls in areas, and the windows are rotten.

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But it was better than a tent, Hunt said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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