A "love starved" 18-year-old Ruby Humfrey was homeless on Whangārei's streets when she vowed her newborn's life would be different.
And the 33-year-old solo mother of two is keeping that promise with her Givealittle page to raise money for a shipping container or campervan to grow her family's state home as high rent prices hold her hopes of a bigger house out of reach.
"When you grow up in CYFs (Child, Youth, and Family) care you're love starved. Instead you pour everything you've got into keeping what little you have," Humfrey said. "I live for my children and want them to have their own space as they grow up."
The tight knit family rent a Kāinga Ora house that has been divided into two small homes in Whangārei. Humfrey shares a room with her 10-year-old daughter Maggie, with barely enough space to walk between the two single beds, so her 14-year-old son Bradley can have his own single bedroom as he delves into his teenage years.
The close quarters meant the family live on top of each other, Humfrey said.
To an outsider the house would be considered in dire need of a fix-up to repair a broken window, deteriorating walls, and more.
But to the People Potential computer technology student her home of 13 years is a palace, as it was the first place she had stayed for more than six months.
"Things were really, really hard for us. I didn't have anything other than what I could carry on my back," she said. "I love this house; it's my first real family home."
By the age of 15 Humfrey had attended 24 different schools as CYFs relocated her between homes.
Kāinga Ora area manager for Whangārei, Linda Barrie, said Kāinga Ora spends around $500m a year on maintenance and improvements for their homes.
"This includes everything from driveway safety to painting to smoke alarms to fencing and roofing, to upgrading electrical goods," Barrie said. "We work with our customers from the start when both parties sign a tenancy agreement to live in a home."
It was up to tenants to keep their home and grounds tidy and avoid any damage, Barrie said.
Humfrey's weekly income is a $530 payment from her Work and Income sole parent benefit and after rent, food, internet, phone, power, payments related to the kids' schooling; and supplies for the three rescued rabbits and a stray kitten saved from their backyard, Humfrey is left with $28 for the week.
"I can't afford market rent prices - they're out of control," Humfrey said. "But I am grateful that I have a home."
With a fruitless five years spent researching larger rentals, Humfrey has come up with a new solution - a shipping container or campervan in the backyard so Bradley can have his own space.
"It's not a huge thing in the grand scheme of things but it's a huge thing for him to have a space to call his," Humfrey said.
While Humfrey said shipping containers and campervans are more affordable than paying Whangārei rent prices they still sport a hefty price tag.
"They can get really expensive on TradeMe. I've seen shipping containers for up to $15,000 and campervans for around $2000 to $3000 for just the shell of it."
Humfrey said the family are not looking for anything flash, instead they would appreciate any help to soothe their housing woes.
Barrie said they acknowledged the living circumstances of their customers needed to change as their family's lives changed.
"We can help Ruby get into a more suitable home for her whānau as we understand teenagers need their own space."
Kāinga Ora use an internal process or advise people to approach the Ministry of Social Development to have their needs reassessed, Barrie said.
Humfrey said her ideal solution is a paid job.
"At Christmas I gave my son an IOU for a bike that I'm hoping I can afford later. If I could get some work I could really start to change our lives."
Job hunting is why she continues to pay for internet and her phone, she said.
"I'm available to work and I want to work. I even have plans for Maggie's after school care so that I am able to work around my kids."
The past three years have been spent by Humfrey studying computer technology part-time as well as business and admin to forge a better future. Her plans were made more challenging by Covid-19 as it halted her level 4 computer technology qualification.