20 May 2016

Auckland marae opens doors to homeless

9:11 am on 20 May 2016

An Auckland marae is opening its doors to homeless families, as the Housing Minister blames record population growth in the region for the city's housing problem.

The boot is full of bedding and some food

A Mangere marae is stepping up to help people living in their cars Photo: Supplied

Te Puea Marae, in Mangere, says it is willing to help out up to 100 people people who have been sleeping in their cars or struggling to find somewhere safe to stay, and other marae are also considering what they can do to help.

Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare said the marae was putting together a plan to make sure there was security on-site, along with social agencies, to help people with complex needs.

He said families with children and the elderly will be prioritised.

The marae could take at least 60 people and possibly up to 100, but Mr Henare said he wanted to make sure the conditions did not become too crowded.

Mr Henare hoped other marae would also step in, but warned there were several factors they needed to consider, including whether they had the volunteers and resources to cope with demand.

He planned to ask government departments about what support they could offer marae.

Population boom to blame - Minister

Housing Minister Nick Smith told Morning Report today that record population growth in Auckland was to blame for more pressure being put on the bottom-end of the housing market.

He said a concerted effort would be made to increase the housing supply, and insisted the government was not failing.

He said successful initiatives in Christchurch had already shown the government could combat the problem.

"Now over the last year in Christchurch, rents have dropped by 5 percent, and house prices haven't even gone up."

Students suffering from flow-on effect

Meanwhile, an Auckland school principal said overcrowded housing had a flow-on effect in the classroom, and the children affected struggled to learn.

Families have this week told RNZ News they were racking up motel bills and having to sleep in cars and garages as government agencies struggled to cope with homelessness.

Lynda Stuart, the principal of May Road School in Mt Roskill, said she knew of one family living in a single room in a boarding house.

She said the families may not be on the streets or in a car or garage, but they were still living in a situation that was less than ideal for them and their children.

Phil Palfrey from Manurewa East School agreed, saying it was impossible for children to do well at school if they were living in an overcrowded house.

He said there were an increasing number of students living with three or four other families in the same house, and the children found it too difficult to get the space and quiet to do homework or read.

"To put it bluntly, you wouldn't find higher achieving children in those houses, it's just too much for them.

Mr Palfrey said students living in overcrowded houses were also more likely to be truants.

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