Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

North Shore family finds shelter at South Auckland marae after spending night in car

A North Shore family will spend tonight at a South Auckland marae after sleeping last night in their car.

Sickness beneficiary Tony Lepage, 49, his partner Megan, 27, their three sons aged 4, 2 and 9 months, Mr Lepage's 15-year-old son and a 16-year-old nephew were given six weeks notice to leave their rented house in Glenfield when the owner sold up and moved to Australia.

They couldn't afford another rental property in Glenfield, where the median rent is $497 a week. So they sought help from Work and Income, which lent them $925 to stay in a motel for five days.

"That used up all our allowances," Mr Lepage said.

They registered with Work and Income for social housing, but were told they are not in the neediest category so when they first met the Herald at about 1pm today they were not optimistic about getting a house.

They approached De Paul House, Monte Cecilia, VisionWest and other emergency housing agencies, but they were all full.

"We actually spent a week with one of the relatives but, with our kids, the relative just couldn't sustain it, that was only a temporary arrangement. So last night we slept in the car."

Then they heard through the media that Te Puea Marae in Mangere Bridge was opening its doors to the homeless. They were among the first families to walk in its gates.

Tony Lepage and his family had to seek accommodation at Te Puea Marae, Mangere Bridge, after the family had to sleep in the car last night. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Tony Lepage and his family had to seek accommodation at Te Puea Marae, Mangere Bridge, after the family had to sleep in the car last night. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"I'm so frustrated," Mr Lepage said. "Our Government is spending $26 million on the flag - $26 million would be swallowed up for the homeless in a week.

"I'm quite cynical, but I am thankful there's other agencies such as Te Puea that are prepared to open their doors and help."

But just before 5pm tonight they were offered a three-bedroom state house in Avondale which they can move into tomorrow.

"We must have actually shaken the tree enough because we contacted a lot of agencies and did a lot of canvassing," Mr Lepage said. "We never did give up hope. All I can say is that we are extremely lucky and extremely appreciative."

Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis said the marae was stepping up to offer short-term help, but he appealed to the public to offer accommodation for as long as it was needed.

"We know there are churches, sports clubs, other marae and community organisations that have available beds that are suitable for short-term placements," he said. "We know there are landlords that have homes that they can rent."

Marae volunteer Blaine Hoete said a mother and her 4-year-old child were placed this morning into the home of a Manukau family that offered their spare rooms.

He is now talking to an iwi outside Auckland that may have a house for another family.

Mangere Budgeting Service chief executive Darryl Evans, who is helping the marae with food and housing advocacy, said he was supporting two families living in shipping containers in Pukekohe.

"They have no electricity, no running water, no toilet - it's just a place to sleep," he said.

"The point is, to my knowledge, everything is full. We rang some of the boarding lodges yesterday because we had a family that are more than likely going to be evicted on Friday. We rang at least five lodges around South Auckland and we told that they have waiting lists.

"It's great that Te Puea is helping. But it is still only a short-term fix."

• The marae needs food, blankets, towels, adult and children's clothing and offers of accommodation. Phone 09 636 7019, tepueamemorialmarae@gmail.com.

- NZ Herald

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