Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Homeless family want to 'pay it forward'

A homeless family who got a state house after seeking help from a Mangere marae now want to "pay it forward" by helping others who are still sleeping in cars.

Tony Lepage, his partner Megan Williams and their children moved into their new three-bedroom state house in Avondale last night [Friday] after staying two nights at Te Puea Marae, which has opened its doors to the homeless.

They have been overwhelmed by the support they have received, including food and clothing from the marae, a Barnardos social worker who helped get them the state house, a new child's car seat from Plunket, and a free place for their 4-year-old son Xavier in New Lynn's Christian-based Angels Childcare.

De Paul House in Northcote helped them make a telephone application for social housing and scanned and emailed their documents to Work and Income.

Work and Income has not only given them the house but has also provided a grant to move their furniture from the storage unit they placed it in after they had to leave their former rental home in Glenfield after the owner sold it and moved overseas.

Mr Lepage, a former road construction machine operator and truck driver who has been on a sickness benefit for two years because of anxiety and depression, said the whole experience had transformed his state of mind.

"A lot of people who are homeless feel marginalised and discriminated against, even ashamed to not be able to provide for your children," he said.

"It's a horrible feeling to have, the feeling that you can't provide, the feeling that you are not worthy of being a parent.

"But I'm sort of on a roll now. I've been told by other people that my story actually raised awareness. I'm quite humbled by the praise I've been given. It's unbelievable. This is totally unexpected and overwhelming. I'm so grateful.

"It's been an emotional rollercoaster from feeling negative to totally positive, it's quite hard to remain grounded, to keep my feet on the ground."

Ms Williams, who discovered that she was related to Princess Te Puea after whom Te Puea Marae was named, said the family now wanted to repay all the support they have received.

"Our mission now is to help other homeless people," she said.

"We would like the homeless families from Bruce Pulman Park [in Takanini] to go to Te Puea Marae. We are going to go out and try and meet them, just to bring them all in, because even though the adults might be okay living in the car, it's not okay for the children."

Mr Lepage said the family would take food and blankets out to the homeless.

"I really want to pay it forward," he said.

"We have been given an opportunity now, maybe we can help people. If I can help one family to get into a house, I will feel blessed by being able to do that."

Now that the family has a house, they hope they can bring back Mr Lepage's 18-year-old daughter and her partner who had to leave Auckland a month ago because they couldn't get a house, even though the partner was working as a plasterer. They are now staying with friends at Port Waikato.

"They were staying with us [in Glenfield] and then they found themselves a house, but unfortunately it fell through," Mr Lepage said. "Because they had nowhere to stay he had to quit his job and move to Port Waikato."

A 16-year-old nephew who lives with the family, Isaiah Williams, is also now looking for a job  "just any job," he said.

Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis said the marae had helped nine families get into housing since it opened its doors on Wednesday.

Her said Work and Income had created a dedicated team at its Mangere office to organise housing and other support for people who came to the marae.

"Let's get them a home, all the paperwork and follow-up can be done in their home," he said.

"You can't help someone who is living in a car, going all over the place, so the philosophy we have here is get them a place so they have got a fixed abode and agencies who need to do follow-up can actually find them."

He said the marae was open to all homeless families regardless of ethnicity.

"If you're sleeping in a car or in circumstances that don't look like a home, that's why we have set ourselves up here at Te Puea Marae, so don't feel shy," he said.

The marae is appealing for a van for a mother and 12 children who have been sleeping in a stationwagon.

It also needs food, clothing, blankets, towels, hygiene supplies and offers of accommodation. It can now be contacted through a new Facebook page, "Te Puea Memorial Marae Manaaki Tangata." https://www.facebook.com/Te-Puea-Memorial-Marae-Manaaki-Tangata-1622950467990826/timeline

NZH

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 25 Feb 2017 14:09:10 Processing Time: 653ms