A 24-year-old mum denied emergency housing was forced to sleep in a Napier park with her two toddlers, using a single blanket and body heat in a desperate bid to keep them warm as temperatures hit near-freezing.
The Ministry of Social Development described the incident as "unfortunate" and said it would take all measures to ensure it "never happens again".
Val, who did not want her last name to be published, approached the Ministry of Social Development's Napier office on Monday for emergency housing.
She went with her 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter because she had nowhere else to go. She said she didn't think for a minute she would be turned away.
Val said up until three weeks ago she was renting in the Northland town of Kaikohe but due to a change in circumstances she had to leave.
"I came to Hawke's Bay to be with family but I had nowhere proper to stay."
Val spent that night at Anderson Park in Napier with her two kids, on a night where according to MetService. Tuesday morning's low was 1C.
"I slept at the park next to the slides, with my children with a single blanket.
"I wrapped them together and they slept on me to stay warm. I had my arms around them.
"They slept, I didn't."
After a sleepless night in the park Val found herself at the "Hands off our Tamariki" hikoi in Napier on Tuesday.
There she met Whanau Ora's Cherie Kara Watene who agreed to act as her advocate.
"Val came to me at the event yesterday asking if anyone could help advocate for her.
"They [the Ministry] were unwilling to engage her and support her till she had an advocate for support.
"They turned her away stating she was not at her own office."
At Val's second attempt at MSD, with Watene as an advocate, she was given a grant "straight away" for a week's stay at a Napier motel.
She also received a $60 food grant and was contacted by MSD to be referred into 12-week social housing.
Watene said situations like Val's were occurring too often and it was not good enough to just say she was in the wrong town.
"The culture of fear Winz creates can be overwhelming. It should never have happened. It is tragic and sad."
Regional Commissioner for Social Development Annie Aranui said while the ministry wanted to offer support to people in urgent housing need, unfortunately in Val's case it didn't happen.
"We don't want anyone sleeping rough. We want to ensure all available support is offered to people with an urgent housing need.
"Unfortunately in this case that did not happen.
"We have since made sure she has safe, warm and dry emergency accommodation while we help her to find somewhere more permanent to live.
"I have spoken with my staff at the service centre to ensure that this never happens again.
"Short-term housing is available for people with nowhere to live and we encourage anyone without a home to come and talk to us so we can see how we might be able to help them."
Napier's acting mayor Faye White said Val's was "sad and regrettable" and one she didn't have all the answers for.
"But what I can tell you is that it is important we do our utmost to work together with the community and government agencies to resolve homelessness in our region.
"We need to ensure people in our community are well supported in their time of desperate need."
Napier city councillor Maxine Boag said the woman's plight was an "appalling situation".
"Until central government builds adequate state housing there are far too many people in motels and transitional housing without somewhere they can call home."