Humanity key to solving housing crisis

19:19, Feb 10 2013

I've been a little off my angry, fighting game lately because I have had an answer on my quake house - one of four attached units. After what I believe to be an excruciatingly long and character-destroying time of being ignored and fobbed off by claims managers, my claim was finally given to someone competent. It is a total constructive loss.

However, just because my situation has been eased, does not mean I am blind to people struggling in other parts of the city.

As evidenced from some of the ridiculous and hateful comments following a couple of stories run in this section last month, I can only believe that people read what they want to read.

One story in Mainlander suggested Ngai Tahu will bring a cultural change to the rebuild, the other was about a Ngai Tahu-gifted sculpture unveiled at Scott Base.

"What next?" Anonymous Commenter said. "Will they put a claim on the moon?"

My point is not that prejudice is alive and thriving but that too many people zero in on words or images that get their goat. Their minds begin to close but not before a few narrow thoughts squeeze through the gap like Indiana Jones escaping the Temple of Doom.


The same can be said for the housing situation in Christchurch.

We see a person living in appalling conditions and think it must be their fault. It is two years on from an epic disaster and still we have people living in unacceptable conditions. Yet the minute those people pop their heads above water to illustrate the crisis, they are shot down for being no-hopers.

Last month, The Press carried the story of a woman and her child living in a garage. Shortly afterwards, Campbell Live aired the story of a man living in a car and a family struggling to find a rental because they had a dog.

I know a family of seven living in a sleepout.

Yet, still the housing crisis - the same housing crisis The Press has reported on for more than 18 months - has not been properly investigated or acknowledged by the people who ought to help.

Everyone knows the first step to recovery is admitting the problem, but instead of acknowledging it or presenting a plan we get an argument between Minister for Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee and the Christchurch City Council over the delay in reparation of social housing.

It shouldn't be a question of politics because it is a question of base humanity. It is not good enough. Nowhere near. Not by anybody's book.

I can speak with much authority what not having a permanent place to call home can do to one's mental state. It does nothing good.

Then there is the problem of health.

Can you imagine what living in a garage does to, say, a bronchial system or self-esteem?

Now imagine two adults and five children, aged 3 months to 14 years, living in a sleepout.

Five kids in a playground can elicit an argument but five in one room?

For this family, patience is now very hard to come by but with everyone sharing such a small space, colds and nits are not.

Over-crowding is a consequence of the earthquake and what this will do for relationships, the spread of social disease and mental health is obvious.

No-one is being helped by simply looking at these stories and judging the people who live in these situations as worthless.

Whatever or whoever they are, they will make no contribution to society or the shape of our future Christchurch living as they are.

The nation has concern for child poverty in terms of school lunches. What about where they live?

The Press