The Housing Guru

By Renee Kahukura-Iosefa

In just one year Maylene Harrison, a social housing advocate for Family Works Northern in South Auckland, has helped 125 families and 467 children into homes.

Maylene has become a lifeline of support doing all she can to get homeless families and their children off the streets, out of their cars and into homes.

Maylene says, “They are just families with children they need shelter. So how are we going to get around this? Surely they can come out of that car, surely they can have somewhere to stay and surely they can apply for social housing based on need?”

According to the Ministry of Social Development there are currently 6,500 people on the social housing wait list. Over 2,600 Work & Income clients access emergency accommodation that costs the government $100,000 a day to house people to live in motels.

Hazel Tukariri a solo mother of eight describes her three months living in emergency accommodation as unsafe half way houses. Hazel says, “Work and Income were paying for motels costing $3,800 a week. They didn't know where they were sending us. I was around drunks, addicts we were placed right next to them.”

Hazel now has a four bedroom house in Manurewa that costs $705 a week.  Maylene says many of her clients are faced with the decision each week to pay for the rent or to buy food.  She says her clients have been taken advantage of by private landlords cashing in on their vulnerability because they have nowhere to go.

Maylene says, “There must be some sort of code of conduct that they have to do. We are talking about children who are going in and out of hospital, who can't attend school because they are sick. This is the reality of what we are going through right now.”