"We're hearing about Auckland, Auckland, Auckland - what about the rest of the country?"

Priscilla Pukeroa, 25, asked me this. In the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend, we reported how Priscilla, her partner and 4-year-old daughter slept in their car for six weeks, unable to find a home despite making up to six rental applications a day.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has said homeless Auckland families could be offered $5000 to shift out of town starting from today. But where are the houses?

Tauranga, we cannot let this happen. They are our hidden homeless. Let's not be the blind public.


When we visit Priscilla's family in her emergency motel accommodation, 4-year-old Chardonnay pats her bed for me to sit next to her on the Barbie princess sleeping bag which poignantly brought the family's plight to the community's attention. A typical 4-year-old, she is bright and curious. She always wants to know what's in my bag - she fishes out my pink lipstick and hunts for nail polish.


What took us so long to notice Chardonnay and her mum and dad sleeping in a car in Tauranga's central park?

They are not alone. Others bravely share their stories this week in #OurHiddenHomeless series.

Today Juliet Rowan talks to Merivale principal Jan Tinetti about the 'heartbreaking' impact of homelessness on children. Ten per cent of kids at her school are homeless or living in temporary accommodation. Local support service Te Tuinga Whanau has 140 people within walking distance of the school classed as homeless on its books. The impact is not just on learning, but their whole self-esteem and wellbeing. If living in a car was not bad enough, if never having a bed was not bad enough, these kids may miss out on childhood pleasures - making friendships with other kids.

Read more:
Tommy Wilson: Homeless get a helping hand
The homeless problem's impact on our children
Tauranga's homeless problem at 'crisis point'

"The eyes start to deaden in the kids that are the highly transient children. They struggle to make friends and they won't make friends because they know they'll be leaving again really, really quickly," says Tinetti.

Tauranga, we cannot let this happen. They are our hidden homeless. Let's not be the blind public.

We can't wait for Paula Bennett - although I agree with Tinetti that central government must act - we need to help families today.

All week we will be running information on how you can help.