Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Herald readers save Hamilton family from eviction

Fitwear directors Simon Phillips and Adam Clark, who helped pay the rent arrears for Hamilton family Rob and Roselyn and their four children. Photo / Supplied
Fitwear directors Simon Phillips and Adam Clark, who helped pay the rent arrears for Hamilton family Rob and Roselyn and their four children. Photo / Supplied

A group of Herald readers have paid the rent arrears of a Hamilton family that was facing eviction by Housing New Zealand.

The five readers across New Zealand and Australia arranged with each other via Facebook to pay $1160 to Housing NZ for Roselyn and Rob, a couple with four children aged 15 to 10 who do not want their surname published.

Roselyn said they saw three other Housing NZ tenants evicted with no more than two days' notice at a Tenancy Tribunal hearing in Hamilton last week, as the agency prepares to receive Aucklanders who will be paid up to $5000 each to move to social housing in Hamilton and other provincial towns.

"They all came out in tears," Roselyn said.

Roselyn herself was in tears - but this time tears of gratitude and joy - when the Herald told her that the group of readers had offered to pay the family's rent arrears.

"I'm feeling really blessed. What angels! Thank you, Lord!" she said.

Auckland University sociologist Dr Kellie McNeill said she paid the money after four friends responded to her Facebook posting of the Herald's story about the family yesterday

Simon Phillips, 24-year-old founder of sportswear company Fitwear, offered to pay the whole $900 of unpaid rent.

"I posted your story on Facebook, and when I woke up this morning Simon had said he would pay it," Dr McNeill said.

"So I put up that I'd split it with him, and then there were a few people who said, 'I'll chuck in $100.' One of my friends in Australia said he would throw $100 in."

After speaking to Roselyn and Housing NZ, the group paid the $900 plus this week's rent of $260 which was due yesterday.

"It just gives them a bit of a reprieve so that they can get on their feet without getting back into arrears," Dr McNeill said.

Mr Phillips, who founded Fitwear in Palmerston North when he was 19 and moved to Auckland last year, said he set aside part of Fitwear's revenue to fund gifts for worthy causes.

"I do stuff like this reasonably regularly," he said.

"I was just on Facebook and Kellie made the post, and I said that's incomprehensible - $900! I just went to Bali for a couple of weeks and spent way more than that."

Dr McNeill, who has a graduate student who did a master's thesis on state housing reforms in Glen Innes, said Housing NZ was evicting many tenants for small amounts of unpaid rent.

"The reins have certainly been tightened," she said.

"That said, I dealt with Housing NZ this morning and they were absolutely incredulous that someone would come in and pick up this debt, but the case manager who has been dealing with the family was certainly very helpful and liaised with Roselyn to make sure it was alright to share information.

"It actually didn't take a lot of sorting out, and for the sake of having six people not sleeping in a car over winter, it's not a lot of money."

- NZ Herald

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