When the cost of rental properties in Tauranga goes through the roof, the homeless go further through the hole in the floor — and the hole is getting deeper and their plight more desperate by the due date of next month's rent.

When we in the emergency housing sector see the headline "Rents Jump 130pc in 20 years" (News, October 29) it sends shivers down my staff's spines, because we know what's coming.

The more increases in rent, the more are homeless — the equation is that simple.
It's a bit like a Dutch dyke that can no longer withstand the pressure of the rising tide and not even a fist — let alone a finger of community kindness — can stop the flood of families who are finding it harder and harder to find a home.

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On Tuesday morning on October 30 at 11.11 (there's that time again), I could hear the joyful sound of children chattering and playing outside my office door.

So, I went to find the source of such merriment and found a neatly dressed, well mannered and happy family, with a mother who had pride in her pride of beautiful tamariki.

Donna Love and her seven children had been tent-bound in a cold, damp dive until they showed up at our front door.

Low on kai, home comforts and most of all hope, Donna is the face of many families who just want to look after their kids in a safe, dry whare.

What was different to the outside world but not to us at the front line of homelessness is Donna and her whanau didn't fit the profile of a homeless family.

Therein lays the first and possibly the most significant challenge when it comes to finding a solution for those who sleep in tents, garages and in cars.

We, as a society, seem to have adopted a perception of what a homeless profile looks like.
Broke, broken-hearted, living off the state and not worthy of being a good tenant. Not so, the many mothers like Donna who we meet almost on a daily, if not weekly, basis.

Until we can accept by understanding that many mothers cannot provide for their kids for a raft of different reasons, the downstream effect will most certainly be a ghettoisation of towns and cities like Tauranga.


Donna gave it her very best shot and came up short.

So short that she was left to look after her flock in a tent on her mother's backyard and even then, she was forced to vacate from mum's because it was jeopardising her mum's tenancy.

So, by the time she reached her last resort at our front door, Donna was desperate, having packed up her tent and her seven kids and spent their first night sleeping in her eight-seater people mover.

Sure, the sceptics and the Ngati Whingers will point the bone of blame and ask "Where's the father?" or "Why isn't she working?" — but the reality is we are not all dealt the same cards in life, and for some, the deck seems stacked against them from day one.

Who of us could take on a tent with seven kids and still have them looking well kept and as well mannered as any family in any sector of society?

They say true reconciliation can only take place when we all start looking after each other in our backyard.

For many, the answer is found in their faith but sometimes the backbone of belief that many Christian folks prescribe — "to be like Jesus" — has left many a homeless family carrying their cross.

We have a saying in our office that goes "hands that serve are holier than lips that pray", and for us, it's all about the service we can give to those who need it most, and the rewards come in the faces on families like Donna Love and her seven kids.

For those potential God-loving landlords out there, we as advocates on behalf of the homeless need you to wear a korowai of empathy — just like our Bro Jesus.

Make your whare liveable.

What is added to the invoice of tomorrow's tenants who cannot afford the cost of today's $465 average weekly rental are the growing number of opportunistic landlords who know they have a captive market and have no conscience in allowing mothers like Donna to move into a sometimes untenable residence, where mould and cold go hand in hand, and the condition of some carpets are reminders of a swill-soaked public bar floor.

In my view surely there should be a code of conduct or a Warrant of Rental Fitness for desperate houseless mothers to be protected by?

Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.

Thankfully MSD, TCC and the community of Tauranga Moana stood up for Donna and her kids, and tonight they sleep safely and warmly.