Nelson's only emergency housing for homeless women and children closes

The Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park in 2013 provided emergency accommodation for between 80-90 people for an average stay ...
Martin de Ruyter

The Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park in 2013 provided emergency accommodation for between 80-90 people for an average stay of 9-10 days last year.

The closure of the only emergency housing for homeless women, youth and families in Nelson could have "dire" consequences for the city's most vulnerable people.

Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park management has withdrawn the use of two self-contained cabins for use as emergency accommodation following an incident last month in which a tenant abused visitors and staff.

Nelson Tasman Housing Trust director Carrie Mozena said the cabins were the only emergency accommodation for women, children and young people in Nelson.

Nelson Tasman Housing Trust director Carrie Mozena
Marion van Dijk

Nelson Tasman Housing Trust director Carrie Mozena

"What that means is there's now nothing for women, families, youth. There's nothing. There's Women's Refuge, but they're not emergency accommodation," she said.

"That's why this is dire."

READ MORE: Abuse victim allegedly offered 'sex-for-rent' deal

She said the cabins had accommodated between 80-90 people - adults and children - for an average stay of 9-10 days last year.

"It was very short-term, but for those people that will be a significant loss. The withdrawl of that means a family or individual under stress, their options are many many fewer."

The men's Night Shelter in Vanguard St was now the only emergency accommodation in Nelson, she said.

The holiday park has provided emergency housing for more than 10 years. It started with a caravan in 2004, which was later upgraded to two self-contained units.

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Holiday park general manager Marcel Fekkes said there had been "a series of incidents" involving tenants of the emergency cabins over the years and the latest one was the "final straw". 

"It was just a case of verbal abuse towards fellow tourists as well as staff and it was getting very close to physical abuse," he said.

"This wasn't a one-off, but it was serious enough to say; 'that's it'." 

He said the housing had been a "social duty" to the community, but it was no longer working out.

"It's always a hard thing to do, but our core business at the end of the day is tourism and when these two things don't go hand in hand anymore then you have to make a decision. 

"There still is a need for such housing but potentially there will be other areas that will be able to pick up the slack."

Mozena said 80 per cent of tenants who used the emergency housing were well behaved, but there had been some problems.

"I really don't want to blame [the holiday park]. They're a business, they've been very generous with us for 10 years and they've coped with some pretty difficult clientele."

She said there was a "significant" need for emergency housing in Nelson and a meeting of social agencies has been called for later in the month to discuss solutions.

The ideal solution for Nelson would be two safe emergency houses for women, youth and families, Mozena said.

"Ideally we'd like those places to be staffed. Part of the problem is if you just provide a roof but there's no supervision or cleaning then you get significant problems with anti-social behaviour.

"We need resources to pay staff and then we can work with the existing support agencies who have support workers to help people move on."

Mozena said men, women, families and youths can find themselves homeless for a range of complex reasons.

She said there are up to 12 agencies working together to help homeless people access housing in Nelson.

The emergency housing shortage in Nelson was highlighted by the case of an 18-year-old sexual abuse victim who was allegedly propositioned with a sex-for-rent offer while staying at an accommodation provider last month.

The teenager contacted Sexual Abuse and Healing seeking emergency housing on New Year's Day and a crisis worker resorted to checking her in at the accommodation provider because nowhere else was available.

 - Stuff

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