21 Feb 2018

Homelessness jumps up in Tauranga

2:42 pm on 21 February 2018

The number of homeless people in Tauranga has increased 20 percent in the past year.

Tauranga Harbour

An annual survey in January found Tauranga house prices were 8.9 times the median income. Photo: 123RF

A steep rise in house prices and competition for jobs in the Bay of Plenty city led to the number of people without homes jumping to 470.

The city was identified as the most unaffordable in the country a month ago.

Tulip Tarawa, a mother of three, said she wanted to eventually own her own home to give her children a stable future.

"For years we've been going house to house and I've been trying to get rentals over the years but I just haven't, like, succeeded.

"We ended up here because the last place we were staying at was full. There was, like, heaps of people there and then we ended up having nowhere to go at all."

She has recently been able to find temporary housing thanks to Te Tuinga Whānau, a support service dedicated to finding emergency housing for the homeless in Tauranga.

The housing service is also looking after Lauren Simeon, a young mother of two who arrived in Tauranga in December.

She said a bad personal situation meant she had no option but to leave Palmerston North, where she was living with her two children.

"When I left Palmerston North, I sort of at the same time left all my main support as well. I stayed with friends and family in Palmy and Auckland, and Hamilton.

"At the time, I was actively looking for housing but I just didn't have any luck. I probably applied for almost 200 houses."

She said she had been repeatedly rejected because of a bad credit history.

She too wants a better life for her children, and that's something the team at Te Tuinga Whanau also hope they can give her. At a hui yesterday the organisation discussed ways to combat the homelessness problem.

One plan put forward was "The Happy Puku", which Te Tuinga Whanau's executive director Tommy Wilson said would help teach people how to cook good food, find jobs and be more financially responsible.

"It's all very well, you can put families in houses but if they've never learned how to pay rent or to keep a whare clean, or how to cook good kai, they're eventually going to come back again, eh."

The Ministry for Social Development has teamed up with another support group for the homeless called The People's Project as part of the government's Housing First plan.

The group was hoping to house 100 people in Tauranga.

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