Juliet Rowan is a reporter for Bay of Plenty Times Weekend

Tauranga's homeless problem at 'crisis point'

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Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti sees first hand the consequences of homelessness on Tauranga children. At the Decile 1 school, 10 per cent of children are now homeless or living in temporary accommodation. "We are truly reaching crisis point", she says.
Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti is seeing first hand the impact Tauranga's homeless problem is having on her students.
Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti is seeing first hand the impact Tauranga's homeless problem is having on her students.

A family in a car before moving into an unlined garage.

A single mum with two children, one of whom has an intellectual disabilty, living in a motel after being refused rentals because of her son's condition.

A large family forced to go tenting and now temporarily living in a garage.

These are just some of the cases at Tauranga's Merivale School, says principal Jan Tinetti.

"You'd be amazed at how many of my kids don't have beds to sleep on," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"That really is something they just don't have because they have to start again and again and again." These recurring starts Ms Tinetti refers to are the result of Tauranga's housing crisis.

As a growing number of rentals are sold amid soaring property values, tenants are struggling to find replacement homes in a market already under pressure from outsiders moving to the Bay.

Rising rents is adding to the pressure cooker, forcing an increasing number of families into a transient lifestyle of emergency accommodation, bunking with family or friends, or at worst, sleeping in garages, tents and cars.

Each time they move, they are forced to relinquish vital possessions - including beds - because they are unable to afford storage while they continue the desperate search for housing. In some cases, furniture needs to be sold to pay the bond on another rental.

Buying those possessions again later can prove a financial impossibility, with one Merivale father recently asking if he could take a bed donated to the school for his daughter because she had not had one to sleep in for several months.

"It was here by about 20 past eight. By 9 o'clock it was gone," says Ms Tinetti.

Merivale is not the only school affected.

You'd be amazed at how many of my kids don't have beds to sleep on.
Jan Tinetti

Dane Robertson, president of the Western Bay of Plenty Principals' Association, says at least five schools in the region have reported families struggling with homelessness or substandard accommodation.

He had been told of multiple families living in tents and garages, and others sharing homes to make ends meet.

* Read more: Woman works daily but sleeps in car
* Read more: Pre-schooler lives in car for three weeks
* Read more: Introducing Tauranga's 'upper class' homeless

"Other cases are families living in houses that are way below what would be considered acceptable, such as tarpaulins covering broken windows and holes in the floorboards."

Mr Robertson said the schools did not want to be named.

"However, he says they are spread across the region and a united approach between the community and local and central government is needed to address the problem.

"Do we want to be living in a country where some children's day-to-day housing is an uninsulated corrugated iron shed?"


#OurHiddenHomeless

How you can help:

1 - Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services deals with homelessness at the frontline by providing emergency housing and wrap around social services www.givealittle.co.nz/org/whare4whanau
2 - CARE4KIDS Fund is run by an independent Tauranga Hospital charitable trust fund. Proceeds of this fudn will be used by Bay of Plenty District Health Board to stock a resource room for homeless families or children in need, that the hospital staff come across under its care. Donations can be made to the CARE4KIDS Fund via electronic bank transfer or deposit at a Westpac Bank branch.
The fund number is: 03-0445-0220209-00
It is important - for either an electronic or manual donation - to enter CARE4KIDS in the reference secction.
If you would like a receipt of your donatoin please email your details (name and address) with the amount, time and date of your donation to Care4Kids@bopdhb.govt.nz
3 - Tauranga Community Joining Place (Hononga) is a new Facebook page to connect people who want to help with those in need. Facebook.com/TAURANGAHONONGA
4 - Tauranga Under the Stars feeds the homeless every Saturday night at 6pm in the walkway off the Tauranga City Council carpark. Donate to its bank account 03 1547 0094578 00 or visit its Facebook page: Under the Stars - Homeless in Tauranga

- Bay of Plenty Times

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