Housing a 'big issue' in Timaru, says social service provider

Citizens Advice Bureau manager Suzanne Cullimore stands beside volunteers Jill Bowden, back, and Robin Hamilton. The ...
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/STUFF

Citizens Advice Bureau manager Suzanne Cullimore stands beside volunteers Jill Bowden, back, and Robin Hamilton. The branch has been open for 40 years.

Housing in Timaru has become a "big issue" in recent years and continues to be one that regularly confronts volunteers for the Timaru branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

The 28 volunteers who are part of the branch celebrated its 40th birthday with a dinner last week, manager Suzanne Cullimore said.

Cullimore started with the CAB 14 years ago.

The organisation itself was started in England during World War II.

While some of the inquiries people arrived at the Timaru service with nowadays were similar to those that people might have made 40 years ago - such as consumer complaints - one area of focus that was different was housing.

Timaru did not often see people sleeping in their cars, as was the case in other parts of the country, but there was still the occasional person who, for whatever reason, was in need of accommodation at short notice, Cullimore said.

"Housing has been big for a few years now, and it hasn't got any better."

Housing used to be approached differently, she said.

"People got state houses 40 years ago if they needed one. And they rented them forever."

She was unsure how many state houses were available in Timaru nowadays.

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Cullimore said the organisation had always seen a number of consumers who were annoyed with something they had purchased.

"Once people calm down and stop ranting about being sold a dummy, they start talking about what their needs are and maybe they've chosen something wrong." 

When things were faulty, traders were usually happy to fix or replace things, Cullimore said.

The branch sometimes received inquiries from young people sacked from their jobs who did not know their rights or understand their employment contracts.

Many people also made inquiries about their rights and obligations with renting.

"I wish these sorts of things were taught in schools," Cullimore said.

"These are the things that can really come back and bite them hard."

Other things were less confrontational - people sometimes called asking for the phone number for the Red Cross.

"It is in the phone book but under New Zealand Red Cross," Cullimore said.

People sometimes needed help with paying a bill or finding out the name of a good cobbler.

"We get questions like 'where can I get someone to mend my boots?' and we still do, so that hasn't changed."

Timaru's CAB has been facilitating free legal advice evenings each Thursday for over a decade, she said.

"Sometimes people can go there to find out 'what's the next step?'."

Local lawyers had a roster and gave their time for free, she said.

Cullimore said it was good being situated in Community House, as the service was in close proximity to many other services which may be of assistance if CAB could not.

 - Stuff

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