Homeless cousins Jarred Cooper and Rangi Tangira rocked up to Open Arms for some kai but more importantly, to catch up with Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi for a chat about their daily struggles.
The duo were among a number of homeless people at the day centre for those in need in central Whangārei yesterday to share their personal experiences with Faafoi and fellow Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime.
The MPs were doing predominantly housing visits and wanted to hear first-hand from the homeless about the issues they faced, how best wraparound support services could help, and to take feedback back to Wellington.
They also met with He Korowai Trust chief executive Ricky Houghton, and representatives from the Ngati Hine Trust and the Anglican Budgeting Service elsewhere in Whangārei.
Cooper lived with his mother before differences between the two saw him move out and is looking for a property to either rent or buy.
He did work pruning trees but working has been difficult while looking after his 2-year-old daughter.
"Now I am hunting and fishing for survival. The minister's visit helps us talk to someone who can give directions on what to do and where to go."
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Yesterday's visit also marked the first anniversary of Open Arms.
Faafoi said as a Pacific Island boy who grew up in a state house, he understood the challenges homeless people and the elderly faced around their housing needs.
Northland, he said, was one of the "hot spots" in New Zealand in terms of housing needs and related services and said the Government was looking at how to increase the supply of houses that were affordable, warm and safe.
Faafoi said Open Arms has undertaken a massive commitment to make sure people in need have their housing, health, budgeting and income needs met which was not easy.
"It's good they can go to a place to have a shower, a bit of kai but at the end of the day, supply [of houses] is going to help these people so we need to make sure we have the supply so once these people look after them, they have somewhere to live.
"You've seen how difficult a challenge that can be because to be fair to the people that have been homeless, navigating the bureaucracy of getting into a house can be difficult if they don't have the support for the challenges they are facing.
"There are some places which most New Zealanders don't visit and don't see here in Northland where the housing need is great and I am not just meaning the number of houses but we've got probably children in situations that none of us would want children in, so that's where the supply issue comes in," Faafoi said.