Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Inns full as homeless fill up motels

Faith Davis kept only two of her three children, Ariana (left) and Aaron, after a motel told her it could not take all three children despite her emergency housing grant. Photo / Doug Sherring
Faith Davis kept only two of her three children, Ariana (left) and Aaron, after a motel told her it could not take all three children despite her emergency housing grant. Photo / Doug Sherring

Eight motels accepting homeless people in South Auckland say they are all full, as the city's housing crisis spills over into short-stay accommodation.

Work and Income says it paid 184 families and individuals across Auckland last week for emergency housing.

In South Auckland, eight motels contacted by the Herald said they were full with Work and Income paying for 78 rooms, 22 per cent of their total of 355 rooms.

One motel, where people with housing grants fill a third of its 38 rooms, has opened a waiting list because it has to turn families away.

"They are just phoning up to see if there are any vacancies for families for long stays," the manager said.

Some of the motels spoken to by the Herald have complained about the behaviour of some tenants.

At the Budget Travellers Inn in Papatoetoe, manager Alok Tulsankar said 14 of the inn's 42 rooms had people with housing grants, including 22 to 25 children.

But he said he had to evict one solo mother with her child last week after her partner's friends threw flower pots at him and punched his mouth at midnight on Friday. He filed a complaint with police.

Another Papatoetoe motel also called the police after friends of a homeless family stole gear worth $5000 from its garage.

Some tenants have also been unhappy with the accommodation.

With rooms scarce solo mother-of-three Faith Davis ended up being offered a studio unit that would only take two of her three children. Nothing else was available and she says what she was offered smelt.

Davis said Work and Income gave her a voucher for a room at the Knightsbridge Motor Lodge in Papatoetoe on Monday, but the lodge would only accept two children in a studio unit so she asked her parents to take her 4-year-old son Leobluu.

"When I got there it was really smelly," she said.

"The kitchen is really small, you don't have an oven or anything. The microwave is just sitting on a chair."

Her parents came back to get her after an hour and took her back to the Cimarron Motel in Takanini, where she has lived for the past year. She believed she had to leave the Cimarron because it has been bought by Housing NZ, but property manager Colin Grieve said she could actually stay until February.

Knightsbridge manager Min Kang said the studio unit had only two beds and was the only space available in the lodge, where people on housing grants fill 20 of the 34 units.

"So many people stay in the studios now," he said.

"We recommend only two persons in the studios. Winz [Work and Income] told us there would be one adult and two children staying, but when she checked in she told us one adult, three children."

He denied that the unit was dirty and said smell was "up to personal taste".

"We will do my best, but some guests complain and then we change to another room," he said.

He said there was a table in the room for the microwave.

Davis said Work and Income rang just after the Herald visited todayand offered her a state house in Papakura, which she has accepted.

Social Development Ministry deputy chief executive Kay Read said the ministry was working hard to find new housing for all existing tenants in the Cimarron Motel, which Housing NZ will use for emergency housing.

It is also looking into Davis' case.

"Ms Davis has told us that the standard of the motor lodge was well below what we would consider acceptable for a family with young children. This must have been very distressing for Ms Davis and we have called today to apologise for this," she said.

"We'll be checking in with the motel to recover the payment we made and also to check its adequacy."

Read said motels ultimately make the decision about who they accommodate and there are a wide range of them that have accommodated people.

"We've had no problems finding places for our clients to stay when they need emergency housing in Auckland, including South Auckland. Nor have we received any feedback of a shortage of motel accommodation."

- NZ Herald

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