Annemarie is the magazines editor and regular columnist for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Family relieved to be home after living in car for six weeks

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An "ecstatic, relieved and excited" family spent the first night in their new home on Wednesday - after a long struggle to find a rental that saw them spend six weeks living in their car in Tauranga.

Priscilla Pukeroa, 25, her partner Anthony Daniels, 52, and their daughter Chardonnay, 4, left Tauranga this week for a new start in the 'sunshine capital', Whakatane.

The family piled their possessions once again into their Mitisibushi station wagon, which had been their only home for so long, and drove to their new home, a two-bedroom stand-alone single dwelling in central Whakatane. "It is not far from the beach and there are trees and that."

Read more: Homelessness: Strength in numbers

They had already looked online for a couple of nearby schools for Chardonnay who turns 5 in September.

"It was heavy rain last night in Whakatane but we didn't care - we were in our own house and so relieved."

They all slept on the couch because they still had not got beds. Priscilla said it was "nice and warm" with a log burning fire.

She said Housing New Zealand had opened up their application to the wider Bay of Plenty. "I got the phone call and although Whakatane meant we would be leaving Tauranga where we have met such awesome, amazing people, so leaving some of those people was a bit disheartening, it is just an hour away and we feel so, so ecstatic."

The family had spent six weeks sleeping in their car in Tauranga parks, unable to find a home, despite making up to six rental applications a day.

Priscilla Pukeroa lived in a car with her partner and 4-year-old daughter for six weeks. Photo / John Borren
Priscilla Pukeroa lived in a car with her partner and 4-year-old daughter for six weeks. Photo / John Borren

Since Queen's Birthday weekend they had been staying in emergency motel accommodation following donations from volunteer group Tauranga Under The Stars and an emergency advance of $450 from Work and Income.

Read more: Baby gets meningococcal meningitis, doctor says crowded house a factor

Tauranga Under the Stars raised donations for the family through its Facebook page and helped get them into a motel at Queen's Birthday weekend where they had been since. The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend shared their story last Saturday. At that time Ministry of Social Development Social Housing deputy chief executive Carl Crafar said staff had been working closely with Ms Pukeroa and her family and was confident an offer of housing will be made in the near future. He said a fast-track had been applied to their application on June 1.

The sight of Chardonnay sleeping in a car on one of the coldest nights of the year had a profound effect on Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief operating officer Pete Chandler.

Mr Chandler said he was happy to hear Chardonnay and the family had found a home.

"They're a delightful family and I am so pleased to know that they now have a place to live and can start their new life in the Bay. I think a big thank you needs to go out to everyone who has helped and provided support in recent weeks and worked together to reach such a great outcome."

The DHB last week launched the CARE4KIDS fund, as part of the Tauranga Hospital Trust Fund, The CARE4KIDS fund is ringfenced to be used for homeless families identified through the hospital system. As of midday yesterday, the fund stood at $1131.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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