Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Bay babies left with major health issues from homelessness

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Cross-Party Homelessness Inquiry

• Monday at 1pm at the Wesley Centre in Tauranga, New Zealand. • Run by the Labour, Green and Maori parties.
Kelly Pidgeon has experienced the issues related to homelessness at the coalface in her job as a midwife. Photo/Andrew Warner
Kelly Pidgeon has experienced the issues related to homelessness at the coalface in her job as a midwife. Photo/Andrew Warner

A Tauranga midwife has had to deliver babies with only her cellphone as a light source because of the homelessness crisis affecting the Bay of Plenty.

Mount Maunganui-based independent midwife Kelly Pidgeon made a submission to the Cross-Party Homelessness Inquiry run by the Labour, Green and Maori parties.

In it, she detailed the lengths she has had to go to in her job to look after babies and pregnant mothers in dire housing situations.

I have done unplanned quick birth home births in houses with no lighting due to power cuts, using only my mobile phone to provide visuals.
midwife Kelly Pidgeon

She told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend that as a midwife, she got a snap view of people's lives that most people would not get to see.

She saw them in unguarded moments at unexpected times, when they did not have time to put their homes on show.

"You really get to see that deprivation with a whole different lens than the eyes through which most people see them."

Mrs Pidgeon said most families she encountered living in suboptimal housing were young teen families who were often living with extended family in cold, damp, overcrowded houses.

"These families are often living on cheap white bread and takeaways as they have no means to cook or prepare food, which presents huge longer term health impacts for families and unborn babies."

Mrs Pidegon said these babies did not do well in their first winters in damp cold conditions, with high rates of hospital admissions for bronchiolitus and respiratory issues.

"Often these young mums are doing the best they can with the absolute lack of resources they have. Having enough dry space to dry babies clothes is a real issue. Many babies are being wrapped in rags as the only dry clothes left.

"In Kawerau, where I worked for five years, I can say I am shocked by the standard of housing in a significant proportion of houses I have provided care in. Yes these families have a roof but the houses are freezing with lots of black mould.

"Some have run up massive power bills resulting supply cut offs. I have done unplanned quick birth home births in houses with no lighting due to power cuts, using only my mobile phone to provide visuals."

Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti, who is a member of the national executive of primary teachers' union NZEI, would be speaking at the inquiry's Tauranga meeting on Monday.

NZEI's submission said the union applauded parliamentarians' initiative in establishing this inquiry but said the crisis in housing and homelessness required a collaborative approach from across the political spectrum.

"We are disappointed that the Government is not taking part in this inquiry and call on them to participate," the submission read.

"Our members are telling us, and the New Zealand public, of the increasing concerns they have for children living in poverty . . . Some of these children are living in cars and garages. The incidence of stressed, ill and hungry children in their centres and schools is increasing."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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