16 Jun 2017

GP sees homeless families every week

From Checkpoint, 5:19 pm on 16 June 2017

Northland is in the grip of a housing crisis affecting hundreds of people, with some parents living in tents because homes are too full, a GP says.

It was revealed this morning a 61-year-old woman, Maureen, had been recuperating from a hip replacement in a cold, damp bus because she could not afford to live anywhere else.

After meeting with her local MP Kelvin Davis, she was put up in a motel room.

Her GP Kyle Eggleton told Checkpoint her case was, however, just the tip of the iceberg. 

"I've got people who are living in a lounge - just the whole whānau living in the lounge, 15 people - and they don't need any heating, because they're heating each other up," he said.

"Another family just last week told me that there's 12 in their home and there's not enough space for them all, so some of the parents are living out in the backyard in a tent. 

"This is just something that's ... every day we just see people who are in a horrible situation as far as their housing goes." 

He said it was great that Maureen was possibly going to get something. Her case was just a symptom of the wider problem affecting the region, however. 

"There's hundreds of people out there who are in similar, just dire circumstances.

"Today I saw a person who's crippled with pain, who's living in a home with multiple flights of steps to get into her home." 

He said housing unaffordability and high rents combined with a shortage of rental homes and social housing. 

"We've got people moving up from Auckland and people moving across from Australia trying to come back home because of economic issues, and really struggling to get a house," he said.

"So, there's lots of issues causing homelessness.

"I think it is a crisis, I certainly haven't experienced anything like this in quite some time." 

He said increasing housing stock, including social housing, and raising the accommodation allowance could help. 

"I had a patient two days ago who told me all he's got at the end of the day is $50, the rest goes on rent. How can you live on 50 bucks a week." 

He said the situation was damaging mental and physical health in the north.