Kyra is the Rotorua Daily Post's police, emergency and court reporter.

When your car is also your home (+ video)

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He wakes up to a million dollar view every morning, but he is homeless.

Rotorua's Aaron Houghton, 46, moved back to his home town in January and has struggled to find a house.

For now, his car is his home. And he is not alone.

He is one of the growing number of homeless people in Rotorua - many of whom like Mr Houghton, have a job - who can't find an affordable place to live as the rental shortage worsens.

Mr Houghton reckons on any given night on Rotorua's lakefront there between 10 to 20 cars full of people sleeping, while a local charitable group says it's had to extend its hours to cope with the 15 families a day looking for housing.

And it's not just in Rotorua. A tour to alert the country of our homelessness "crisis" is currently under way with Labour spokesman for housing, MP Phil Twyford holding a public meeting in Rotorua earlier this week, during which locals shared their stories of despair and frustration.

Labour has joined the Maori and Green Parties in conductining a Cross Party Inquiry into Homelessness - something Housing Minister Paula Bennett tells the Rotorua Daily Post today she believes is "a step backwards".

She says the government has a comprehensive plan to help those who urgently need a home - people like Mr Houghton.

Born and raised in Rotorua, he went to Ngongotaha Primary School through to Western Heights High School, finishing in Year 11, but ran away from home when he was 15.

A well presented man, he has worked in the hospitality industry for the past 30 years.

Mr Houghton said he knew he wouldn't have any trouble getting a job when he returned to Rotorua and gained full-time employment almost immediately.

"But, I haven't been able to find a home. It's not as easy as you think.

"I don't seek sympathy, my story is not a down and out story."

Mr Houghton's car is decked out with all the essentials, it has a bed, a kitchen, a lounge, and is as homely as it's possible for a car to be.

"I take it to the Gull on Te Ngae [Rd] and give it a good clean once a week.

"I know spring and summer are coming up and I've survived winter, but give me six months and I'll be over it. I'd like to find a house before next winter."

He said he tried to maintain a positive outlook on life but he knew he wasn't the only one sleeping in his car in Rotorua.

"I've seen one van that has a whole family in it, they are there every night," he said.

"If you go down along the lakefront at 12am you will find around 10 to 20 cars full of people sleeping."

Mr Houghton said he had seen some horrible things, such as people breaking into cars with people sleeping in them.

"On one occasion, it was horrible, there was another car around the corner from where I was parked. A lady was sleeping inside and there were some idiots hanging around, I think they were drunk.

"I heard a huge smash and she jumped out of the car screaming. They had tried to break in without realising she was in there. They took off pretty fast.

"To them it's just a smashed window, but to her, they smashed her home."

He said although he had been trying to stay positive, he could understand how a depressed person could feel.

He said it would help to have somewhere he and others like him could park up securely at night.

"All we need is a block of land where we can feel safe."

Mr Houghton takes pride in his appearance.

"I have a gym membership, it's $13.90 a week and it gives me a shower and I occasionally lift a weight or two.

"It's the stigma of what a homeless person is that needs to change, people think it's the wino in the park or the person who's going to break into their house, but people need to change their perception."

Stuart Harvey, a local musician, has also been sleeping in his car although he said he could afford to rent.

He first became homeless after a divorce. He then moved into the renting scene but wanted to get out because of a problem with flatmates.

Mr Harvey moved out about one month ago as soon as he got a car.

"I'm content with what I have. . . . I can go any where, I prefer this peace of mind."

When asked if he would like a home of his own he said he would, only if God wished him to have it.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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