Emotions ran high at a public rally in Hawke's Bay yesterday as people from all walks of life came together to talk about the region's housing issues.
The rally organised by newly-formed Community Housing Action Team (CHAT) called on the Government to urgently tackle the lack of housing in Hawke's Bay.
CHAT spokeswoman Michelle Pyke opened the event by saying the region's housing issues didn't just involve rough sleepers but families, the elderly and other groups on the "housing continuum".
The 150-strong crowd heard from 13-year-old Jack Thomson who spoke on behalf of himself and his mother about their year-long search to find a pet-friendly rental in Hawke's Bay.
"Rent is so expensive, landlords and rental agencies are pricing the average family out of a rental home . . . I've lost count of how many houses Mum has applied for so far. It would be more than 100."
"I don't understand why this is happening. The stresses it puts my mum and I under, plus the other families in the same situation, is awful. It's disgusting that our so-called government and local council have allowed it to get to this stage."
With just seven weeks until the election housing and homelessness have been key issues at the forefront of the election agenda as many properties formally occupied by state houses, dozens in Maraenui alone, sit empty.
Yesterday Napier beggar Major Keelan spoke about what it was like living on the street; a blanket and backpack of possessions strapped to his back as he stood on the stage.
"I've been on the streets so long, I"ve been on there so long I'm so tired, I'm worn out. We need houses, we need help. We need our people to help, to look at us. We're stuck at the bottom of everything."
Mr Keelan said it broke his heart to see his homeless community on the streets, getting sworn at and abused.
He added that all he asked of the Government was to provide Napier's rough sleepers with a place to stay, a place to call home.
"It's not a very good look. I'm not proud of what we do but we've got to do it to survive. We're only asking for a little bit of help whanau, we just need somewhere to lay our heads down."
After hearing from those directly affected by housing issues those in attendance then heard from local councillors and representatives from National, Labour, the Green Party, New Zealand First and the Maori Party.
National Party candidate for Tukituki Lawrence Yule said homelessness had changed rapidly over the past few years and that the challenge was now to build more houses.
"I'm happy to say on behalf of the National government that help is on the way. The Minister Amy Adams has announced 6500 new state houses for New Zealand to be built over the next five years, of which some will come to Hawke's Bay,"
Mr Yule said he hoped that number for Hawke's Bay would be between 100 and 200.
Hastings councillor Henare O'Keefe challenged the Bay's political influencers to put aside their differences and come together.
Ikaroa-Rawhiti Labour Party MP Meka Whaitiri said she would be the first to sign up.
"Whoever you are, you're first and foremost from Hawke's Bay.
"Yes, you belong to a political party but why can't you do the right thing for the people of Hawke's Bay . . . Absolutely I heard the call today; why don't you guys work together?
"And I'm up for that, totally up for that."
Ms Pyke advocated for the Government to adopt a cross party report by the Greens, Labour and the Maori Party which puts forward recommendations to end homelessness in New Zealand.
"It shouldn't be a political football. People's lives are being ruined and people are dying."