Garage is home for family of four

Last updated 05:00 27/04/2012
Daniel Tobin

Olivia Carville visits a New Brighton family-of-four who have been living in their garage since the February 2011 earthquake.

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A Christchurch family of four, who have been living in a "fantastic garage" for the past year, are concerned for those in worse conditions.

Christchurch's rental housing drought continues to bite, causing some to find alternative accommodation.

Jeremy and Tania Tomkins were not embarrassed about raising their children in a garage because "we are doing everything the best we can".

"We had no other option and I don't think it's embarrassing, but I don't tell a lot of people. I don't want them to feel sorry for us because there are a lot worse off than us," Jeremy Tomkins, 38, said.

The family were forced out of their New Brighton home after a wall and part of their roof collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake, riddling their house with asbestos.

They slept in a tent and caravan for five weeks while they "decked out" the garage.

The walls are insulated, a window and sliding door have been installed and second-hand carpet covers the concrete floor.

The cramped room has a fridge, bench, pantry, chest of drawers, television set, double bed and a cot for 18-month-old Shayde.

Seven-year-old Shayla has her own blue-walled bedroom that is partitioned off from the main garage, and a family friend sleeps in a caravan on the back lawn.

Although the family live and sleep in the garage, they use the bathroom, kitchen and laundry inside their damaged home.

The hardest part of garage life is the lack of space and having to bathe the children inside their cold house.

Despite waking up to the smell of sewage, "dreading" winter and living week by week on one income, the family were positive.

"We are still happy. We have made sure the kids haven't suffered. We look after them and they aren't missing out on anything," Tomkins said.

"It may be a garage, but it's a fantastic garage. We have made it as close to home as possible."

They still pay rates, insurance and mortgage on their home and were told by the Earthquake Commission they would be waiting another three years before it was fixed.

"Sometimes you just feel like pulling your hair out and screaming,'' he said.

"You ring so many people and no-one has any answers for you. It would be nice to talk to someone who actually knew what was going on." 

Tomkins knew of other families sleeping in garages.

"I don't blame people who don't believe families are living in garages like us. They are just ignorant. They just don't know what's going on over here, and it's not their fault," he said.

"But if people are saying there is no crisis, I think they need to come here and look for themselves."

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