Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Relief as homeless teen cancer patient and family move into new house

After 10 days on mattresses at Te Puea Marae, the first thing two little boys wanted to do in their new home was run up and down the stairs.

The two boys, aged 2 and 4, moved today into a brand new four-bedroom Housing NZ townhouse in Mt Roskill with their dad, two other teenage siblings and their big sister "B", 16, who is having chemotherapy at Starship Hospital for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"My little brothers are excited," B said. "They just want to run up and down the stairs."

Formerly homeless teen known as B and her family receive a karakia and farewell for the family at Te Puea Marae. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Formerly homeless teen known as B and her family receive a karakia and farewell for the family at Te Puea Marae. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The family are the first occupants in a block of four new two-storey units, which all come with tiny gardens with lemon trees already planted.

B's father, 46, who came to New Zealand from Samoa in 2000 and has been a solo dad since the children's mother returned to Samoa, said he would share one bedroom with the two young boys so that the three teenagers could each have their own rooms.

It will be a complete change from their cousin's house in Mangere, where they stayed for three months after one of their cousins drowned at Hunua Falls.

"There were 15 people living at aunty's," B wrote on Te Puea Marae's Facebook page last week.

"I slept on a mattress in a room I shared with my little brothers. It wasn't really good because the hospital said I had to wear a mask because I could easily get infected."

B and her family are farewelled at Te Puea Marae. Photo / Jason Oxenham
B and her family are farewelled at Te Puea Marae. Photo / Jason Oxenham

In the new house she has chosen "the biggest bedroom" - a corner room with windows on two sides.

"It's cool, it's awesome," she said.

Her father worked as a painter when the family lived in a Hamilton private rental before moving to Mangere in March, and he has received several painting job offers in Auckland since B's Facebook post.

"After I sort out everything I will look for a job," he said.

He said Work and Income had provided beds, a fridge and a washing machine, but he expected to pay off the beds at $15 a week on top of rent which has been fixed initially at $104 a week, based on a quarter of the family's benefit income. The rent will rise when he starts working again.

'B' outisde her new family home in Mt Roskill. Photo / Jason Oxenham
'B' outisde her new family home in Mt Roskill. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Volunteers from Te Puea Marae formed a human chain to load in the family's other belongings in plastic rubbish bags, as well as food, books and other items donated by the public.

Earlier, about 30 volunteers attended farewell prayers and speeches for the family at the marae, taking turns to hug B.

"I'll miss them," B said.

Marae spokeswoman Moko Templeton said a marae social worker would keep supporting the family in their new home for two weeks, and the family was welcome to return for meals at the marae at any time.

- 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 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 05 Dec 2016 10:49:27 Processing Time: 802ms