Let me demonstrate how differently people live in Tauranga, by describing the day of two families/whānau…
Julie and her 13-year-old son, and daughters, a 7-year-old and 18-month-old
Julie and her children wake up at 7am, grrr, its cold. They've all slept in the lounge to keep warm. She tries not to put the heater on much to keep the power bill down. They put on their coats and have breakfast. There is not enough food for two school lunches so Julie makes lunch for her son and keeps her 7-year-old daughter at home.
Julie had bought food from Pak'n Save earlier in the week when the benefit came through but didn't have enough to last to the following week. Julie and her two children caught the bus to the Work and Income office to apply for a grant She waited 2 1/2 hours and was declined.
They then walked to the Foodbank, where she was advised to visit her budget adviser again because she had received multiple food parcels already. Julie considered this but her income hadn't changed, so she couldn't see what difference the budget adviser would make.
Her son walks home from school and mucks around at home. She doesn't let the kids play outside because of frequent violence on the street and there is no fence around their property.
Julie cooks a stew for dinner with the last bit of meat she has and vegetables, which she eats with her children. It was the only meal she had that day. She now worries about how she is going to get food for tomorrow.
Julie keeps the oven on and opens the oven door to warm up the house and puts duvets over the windows to try and keep the heat in. The curtains are thin and don't keep in the heat. She's worried about her son's persistent cough and sore throat. His bedroom has condensation dripping down the wall in the mornings which she is sure is causing his health problems.
Tania, George and their 14-year-old daughter, 5-year-old son and 19-month-old daughter
The family wakes up at 7am and have breakfast while Tania makes lunch for everyone. George goes to work and Tania drops off two children to school and her youngest at kindergarten then drives on to the Mount for a walk around it with a friend.
Tania and her friend have a coffee at a cafe after their walk, then she heads to the supermarket before picking up her youngest from kindergarten.
In the afternoon, Tania takes her youngest daughter to the local playground. She picks up her daughter and son from school and takes her daughter to a piano lesson and her son to a swimming lesson. Back home, the kids play outside while Tania cooks lasagne and salad for the family.
Julie, George and the two older kids watch TV in the evening in the lounge before heading to bed.
Two very different lifestyles
Hopefully, comparing the days of these two whānau gives you a glimpse of the very different ways in which people live or, in some cases, survive in Tauranga.
Julie experiences significant ongoing stress about having enough money for food, is worried about the health of her children due to living in a cold, damp house, and is concerned about the safety of her children.
Living on a benefit and in poverty means not being able to meet the basics of adequate food and housing, which has a significant impact on Julie and her children's quality of life - for example, ill health.
According to SociaLink research, 17 per cent of people in Tauranga are significantly stressed about their finances. For Māori, it's more like 25-30 per cent who are very stressed about their financial situation.
That is a considerable number of people in Tauranga under considerable ongoing stress.
There can be a tendency to blame such people for their circumstances without knowing what factors contributed to them getting into this situation. One or more of the following commonly, but not always, feature in the lives of people experiencing poverty - family violence, addiction, negative education experiences, and racism.
More empathy and less blame and judgment would go a long way in finding solutions to getting people out of poverty.
• Liz Davies is the general manager of SociaLink, an umbrella organisation for Western Bay of Plenty social agencies.