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HomePoliticalPutting A Face To New Zealand’s Homeless – Part 2

Putting A Face To New Zealand’s Homeless – Part 2



Onokura and Ana

Ono and Ana want only the very
best for their seven children but something seemingly as
simple as finding a house has been a monumental challenge
for them. They are part of an ethnic group that experiences
homelessness or severe housing deprivation at a rate four to
five times that of European New Zealanders, according to
research from the University of Otago and published on the
HUD website.*

This is the second in a series of
three stories putting a human face to New Zealand’s
housing crisis as we introduce whānau who have been
supported by Visionwest through their struggle with
homelessness.

Ono and Ana tell their story and
give some insights into what it’s like to be
homeless.

“For
six years we lived in a house with others. Eventually we
moved because there were things about the place that
weren’t good for our kids and we knew we had to put them
first. For a while after that, we moved from place to place,
mostly from one emergency house to the next.

“For a
while we moved into a room at a family member’s house –
all nine of us in one room with a total of 20 people in the
three-bedroom house. It was a tight fit and, once COVID hit,
it became too difficult. We looked hard but were unable to
find a rental and so went back to emergency
housing.

“Homelessness is something most people
probably never think about but it’s incredibly stressful.
Just think about how stressful moving house is for the
average family. When you have nowhere permanent to live,
you’re constantly on the move, often from one emergency
location to the next, and so you live in a state of stress
that never goes away. You have to constantly think about
things like, ‘Where are the local shops?’ ‘What school
are my kids going to go to?’ ‘Is this a safe
neighbourhood for our kids?’ And, each time you move, you
have to settle your children into a new
place.

“Emergency housing is fine but it’s never
ideal. That’s why it was great for us when someone
suggested we contact Visionwest. For the first time in a
long time, we felt listened to. They said they would do the
best they could to find us a home. Our support worker then
phoned us a few times each day to keep us up to date with
what she was doing for us and to reassure us that she was
pretty certain there would be a place for us if we could be
patient and hang on a little longer. The wait wasn’t over
but was awesome and it felt so good to know someone actually
cared about us.

“On June 12, 2020, we moved into a
transitional housing complex in South Auckland. It felt like
luxury to look around the house and know that we were going
to be here for a while and wouldn’t be asked to leave
within a week or two like often happens with emergency
accommodation. For the first time in a long time, we felt
like we had more than a house, we had a home.

“The
truth is, if not for Visionwest, we’d be homeless. We
couldn’t go back to the family we’d stayed with before.
They’re overcrowded and there are too many issues that
could affect our kids. The only alternative for us would be
a back-packers hostel or a caravan park where we’d sleep
in our car.

“It’s scary being homeless. Even
coming to Visionwest felt risky. When we came here, we were
scared. In fact, we almost just turned around and left
before even seeing anyone.

“The thing that we were
scared of was rejection. Most vulnerable people will tell
you that. You get used to being rejected because agencies
and organisations will promise you the world but are often
unable to deliver. You get to the point where, when the
phone rings, you know before answering that it will be bad
news. Over time, all that rejection adds up and any hope you
might have is worn away to a point where you accept that
things may never change.

“Moving into our house,
even though we knew it was just transitional, lifted that
brick of rejection off our shoulders. With that huge weight
removed, we can focus on our children, on being a family,
and creating a good life for our kids.”

Ono and Ana
are not alone in facing homelessness. About 1% of New
Zealanders are homeless. That makes our homelessness rate
the highest among the 35 high-income countries in the OECD
(Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development)
(*The Borgen Project – September 2020). Homelessness is
not their choice.

* Severe Housing Deprivation in
Aotearoa New Zealand, 2018 by Kate Amore, Helen Viggers, and
Philippa Howden-Chapman; He Kainga Ora, Housing and Health
Research
Programme.

© Scoop Media

 



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