12 Sep 2016

Beneficiaries pay hundreds to live in caravans

From Checkpoint, 5:24 pm on 12 September 2016

People are paying hundreds of dollars a week to stay at a west Auckland campground as they can't find anywhere else to live in Auckland.

The Western Park Village, in Swanson, advertises directly to people on a benefit, with its website saying it would help with the paperwork needed to get assistance from Work and Income for accommodation costs.

A one-bedroom self-contained unit costs up to $390, while a caravan costs slightly less.

The owners did not want to speak to Checkpoint with John Campbell about the accommodation or how many people staying at the campground were Work and Income clients.

They would not let RNZ's reporter onto the property today, despite an invitation from those staying at the site.

But some of the people living there told Checkpoint some of the accommodation was squalid, with cockroaches and mould.

Casey Smith lived at the park until last month and described life there as chaotic.

"$245 a week for just a shack - not completed. It wasn't furnished or anything."

Mr Smith said he was warned not to expect much from Western Park Village when referred there by Work and Income.

"They said, 'Watch out, it's not the best of places'. They told me to watch for my mail - because mail tends to not arrive," he said.

Terina had been living at Western Park for eight months, with two children under five, in a basic one-bedroom sleepout.

It was horrible living there with children, she said.

Michael had lived at Western Park Village for four months and was living in a caravan, which cost $205 a week.

He said he was happy to have a stable home, and Work and Income, which paid his rent, also paid for his bed.

Michael was already paying them back, but was not sure he would ever clear his debt.

"I've got to get a job anyway. But yeah, I pay back $1 a week or something to WINZ for everything that I've borrowed.

"It's gonna be a while."

The Ministry of Social Development said in a statement it did not "refer" people to accommodation and it did not tell people where they should live, but it did help people pay for their accommodation.

It said it would come back to Checkpoint with the number of people for whom it had paid accommodation expenses at the Western Park Village.