New housing for teen mums

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2014
wangui
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
REFUGE: Young mother Claire Wangui will be the first resident of a new housing initiative for teenagers.

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Christchurch teenager and single parent Claire Wangui had no home and nowhere to go.

As her tenure at Holly House - a home for young women and their babies - drew to a close, accommodation options for the Kenyan native were slim.

Instead, the 17-year-old will next week move into a "supported teen flat" - the first of its kind in Christchurch and an initiative being touted as a first step in quelling the acute housing shortage for teens in the city.

Yesterday, The Press highlighted the rising number of youths struggling to find accommodation in Christchurch.

The city's welfare agencies reported the earthquakes were intensifying the problem, with more teens couch-surfing and seeking refuge anywhere they can find it.

Wangui counted herself "pretty lucky" to be one of the first tenants in the supported flatting arrangement.

"I was so glad because I didn't have anywhere to go," she said.

The three-bedroom house will be primarily for teen mothers, but will also provide emergency accommodation for desperate youths.

Wangui moved with her family from Kenya to Ashburton when she was 16, as her parents searched for work. As her stepfather "wouldn't allow" her pregnancy, she moved to Christchurch in search of a facility that would help her. She remained in regular contact with her mother.

For the past five months, Wangui has been a resident at Presbyterian Support's Holly House - a residential home for young mothers who are often dealing with other issues alongside their pregnancy, providing 24-hour support and taking the girls through the first stages of motherhood.

"I didn't know how to raise a baby and I needed someone to support me," she said.

Wangui was now studying towards achieving NCEA Level 1 at Kimihia Parents' College.

The supported teen flat initiative was the brainchild of Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, in collaboration with her advisory group for non-government organisations.

Presbyterian Support Upper South Island chief executive Vaughan Milner, who worked with Bennett on the project, said the teen flats "coincided with some of the issues we were seeing".

Milner hoped this would be the first in a network of teen housing for the city.

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- The Press

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