Solo mum sells herself to help pay rent

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2012

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A 40-year-old solo mother has returned to prostitution to offset an "unaffordable" rent rise.

The domestic purposes beneficiary, who wanted to be known only as Sarah, was not proud of her lifestyle but wanted the public to know "people have had to go to extreme lengths to survive" Christchurch's rental housing drought.

Sarah has had an $80 rent increase over the past year and said it was "beyond affordability".

The extra money she earned from prostitution helped her to pay for unexpected bills, school shoes for her two young children, a warrant of fitness for her car and a new can opener, she said.

Tenants Protection Association manager Helen Gatonyi said many Christchurch residents were facing similarly desperate situations.

The Press knows of several people who will face a bitter winter, including a family of 30 living in a five-bedroom house, a family of eight living in a garage, families sleeping in cars and a man who has pitched a tent in a burned-down, red-zoned home.

"Across the board, people are having to make some pretty tough choices right now. I'm sure other people are having to make decisions as equally as sad as Sarah's in terms of how and where they must live," Gatonyi said.

The agency called for a rent freeze over a year ago and is still advocating for the legislation change.

Sarah, who has been house hunting for the past six months, said the Government needed to intervene.

One rental she viewed had no hot water and the landlord told her she could shower her children at Jellie Park, while other open homes had left her disheartened when people started offering more money than that advertised.

"Landlords are taking advantage of the situation and are increasing the rent just for the sake of it," she said.

Sarah receives $660 on the domestic purposes benefit each week, and in September her rent will increase to $440.

The rise will leave her with $220 a week to pay for power, basic bills and food.

The single mother, who walked away from a brothel three years ago, said her return to the sex industry was about "keeping my head above water".

While her children are at primary school, she closes their bedroom doors and entertains clients in the family home.

"If I could stop, I would," she said.

"I am putting my life on the line by doing this but I am doing it for my kids, just to feed them and provide basic daily living for us."

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