What began as a three-month long project extended every three months and still continues today, some nineteen months later. I’m pretty sure it will wrap up the end of this month.
Credit where credit is due. I have the utmost respect for agencies and individuals who work in this difficult area, housing people during a major housing crisis. In fact, I refer to this area as a growing industry, unfortunately.
While housing homeless and rough sleepers, you can’t unsee what you’ve seen. It can bring you to tears, and other days have you jumping for joy! In fact, when you are housing people in motorhomes, the journey’s you take can be to some of the most beautiful scenery you have ever laid your eyes on.
It has been a privilege to be of service. I have learnt a lot more about Te Taitokerau and its issues as a region, but also where some of the most amazing mana wāhine toa matriarch’s are doing some incredible work with whānau.
My eclectic background of experience has certainly been put to work and, with permission, I’m going to share with you a few of my experiences over my next few articles. Here is the first…
Homeless – M’s Story
M left the whānau (family) home due to domestic violence and had been homeless for 6 weeks. A kind friend offered her a room at the back of her office to stay in and gave her a mattress to sleep on the floor, and another kind person gave her a blanket. The office was cold, and she wouldn’t use the heater in case it impacted on the power bill. She was extremely grateful to have the back office to stay even for a short time as she had nowhere else to go, however she needed to find a place as soon as she could. M had applied for homes but was unsuccessful; she had feelings of fear, hopelessness and doubt. With nothing going right, she rang the coordinator and through her tears she said:
- This situation has been so hard, trying to survive has been difficult
- I have never been homeless before and this has been such an eye opener
- I have never felt so powerless before, going from a fully furnished home to living on the floor
- Could XXXX help me?
When M was told that XXXX could support her, she was so happy she cried and said this is a miracle. Coordinator organised for M to stay at motel immediately and linked her to a Kaiawhina (social worker) who accessed warm blankets, a hot water bottle and heater within the first week of her stay. Her Kaiawhina visited at least once a week and more if the need arose, she supported M to formulate a plan, advocated on her behalf, was a sounding board, linked M to appropriate services, helped build her self-esteem and confidence, and gave encouragement. Coordinator visited fortnightly and M had access 24/7 to coordinator by phone. M would phone when she needed assurance, was lonely, felt helpless or needed a listening ear or someone to vent her frustrations to.
M suffered physically, mentally and emotionally from the abuse she received from her husband, she felt she was on an emotional roller coaster at times, however having a stable warm safe place helped her healing.
This is her korero (what she says about it):
“I am so thankful and privileged to be here (in the Lodge) and grateful for the support of my Kaiawhina. I now feel like I am thawing out, I have never experienced the sort of cold I did when sleeping on the floor of the office. The chill was in my inner bones, it is so good to wake up warm. Since being here, I have been able to have good sleep and to think. One thing I have learnt being in this position is that things do get better, before that I had a distorted balance. I am well-known in the community, have been heavily involved in the community and this is where I want to go back to. The hardest bit is the embarrassment. I couldn’t go to Refuge because I have had clients in the past that are there. Things have been getting hard sometimes, it’s the waiting for a home but I have to persevere. At times I feel depressed but feel like I shouldn’t because it is blessing to be at the Lodge. I am grateful to be here but not having a place, no stability does get me down. Due to the physical abuse, I have suffered a brain injury, this caused me a great deal of stress in the beginning of my stay however the way I processes things is starting to get better, I know what sort of day I am going to have once I wake. I have learnt to wait for my brain to wake up. I have been in the unit for 2 ½ months, I was reflecting on this the other day and know that being where I am now has really made a difference for me, I have had time to settle, to breath, to think, to put things in place, to plan, to begin my healing journey. The moteliers are beautiful people and have shown me great kindness.
M started to regain her inner strength, began to interact with others and do things that stimulated her positively including exercise, good wholesome TV programs, going to church to keep her spirits up and joining different groups – things that made her feel good. However, not having a stable, safe place to live was unsettling. M was registered with Kainga Ora but now that she was in the Lodge her rating had dropped, she had applied for different rentals but there was always lots of people at the viewings and she was not successful. Time at the motel had given her time to build her resolve and it was with this resolve that she put herself out there and went looking for places, talked to people, anything that looked vacant she would research, she didn’t care about what a place looked like she just wanted a place of her own, this finally paid off and she found a 2-bedroom unit and has moved in. She is so excited about having a home of her own and her new journey ahead. M stated this would not have been possible without the wonderful kindness of the moteliers who were so good to her, the awesome support from her Kaiawhina, her faith and belief in God and his goodness, and she could not thank XXXX enough for all they had done for her.
My name is Carol Manukau. Amongst many other things, I work in and with agencies who support people who are homeless or rough sleepers, sometimes working directly with them myself. I believe it’s everyone’s right to have somewhere to permanently call home. This is why I have written a programme for people to improve their knowledge around basic ground level financial awareness, however in it’s delivery it is more holistic.
You can see more of what I do by visiting my facebook page ‘POP Housing Project’.
Author: Carol Manukau 5/2/22