Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Homeless newborn baby given shelter at marae

The Te Puea Memorial Marae at Mangere Bridge, which opened its doors to the homeless last week, has appealed for a house for 14-day-old baby Mereana and her parents. Photo / Facebook
The Te Puea Memorial Marae at Mangere Bridge, which opened its doors to the homeless last week, has appealed for a house for 14-day-old baby Mereana and her parents. Photo / Facebook

A family with a newborn baby has been given shelter at a South Auckland marae after spending some of the first days of her life in a tent at Whakatane.

The Te Puea Memorial Marae at Mangere Bridge, which opened its doors to the homeless last week, has appealed for a house for 14-day-old baby Mereana and her parents.

"The family was living in a tent at Whakatane. They drove up yesterday to the marae because they had nowhere else," said marae worker Moko Templeton.

TVNZ reported that the baby's mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said they had been sleeping rough for 18 months.

"The car that we did have got impounded so we were just camping out in a tent in Whakatane but we'd get stopped by the police, we'd get moved on by the police saying, 'This is a public place not a camping ground'," Mereana's mum told One News reporter Yvonne Tahana.

The family approached Housing NZ but did not inform the agency of baby Mereana, fearing she would be taken away by Child Youth and Family.

"I want her to be able to grow to nourish to have somewhere to belong," her mum said.

"I would travel to the end of the earth to try and find some kind of answer, some kind of option for my family but it really is exhausting to come all the way to Te Puea to try and get help."

Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis said 54 homeless families and individuals had come to the marae by last night.

Meanwhile, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has released more information about "a new mobile team" which she said last week would "reach out to homeless people in Auckland to make sure they are receiving all support they are eligible for".

"Last night teams visited Bruce Pulman Park and Auckland City Mission to engage with those living homeless to ensure they had housing assessments, address the interim housing needs where possible and provide other assistance as appropriate," a spokeswoman said.

City Mission homeless community team leader Wilf Holt said one official from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) came to the mission at dinner time last night, accompanied by a security guard, and met eight homeless people.

"They did four housing assessments. The other four were people who were saying, 'Am I registered?' They had already had their assessments done," he said.

"The same worker that came last night comes to us every Wednesday and has done for the better part of this year to do pretty much that anyway."

Another large social agency said MSD officials did not go with them to Bruce Pulman Park in Takanini, where homeless people have been living in cars.

The agency regularly opens its doors and offers food and blankets, but lets people come to it rather than searching for them. It saw only single adults and couples last night, with no children.

Salvation Army Manukau community ministries director Pam Hughes said homeless people were wary of engaging with any state agency.

"These people are working," she said.

"They don't want their employers or their families to know the condition that they are living in."

Ms Bennett's office said MSD officials were focusing initially on "targeted areas where people are sleeping rough or in cars".

"We will ensure that they have a social housing assessment and we will identify any immediate needs they may have," the spokeswoman said.

"Initially this approach is providing insights into the needs of homeless people, and how to best to meet their on-going needs."

- NZ Herald

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