Jackson warns against using homeless as political pawns

By Ripeka Timutimu

Chief executive for the Manukau Urban Authority, Willie Jackson has cautioned against the homeless being used as political pawns.

Jackson says a 16-year-old Samoan girl with cancer whose family was housed through Te Puea Marae may be in danger of being used to make a point.

Jackson told Maori Television tonight that he feared her health status was being taken advantage of.

"I'm not ignoring the fact her family need a home but they are a powerless demographic and susceptible to the whims of politics," he said.

"I can't help but feel her health status is being used to take the limelight away from the reality and that is the government has a major housing shortage here in Auckland and our urban people are suffering."

Earlier today, the teenager known only as B was the centre of a press conference called by the marae at Te Puea in South Auckland.

She thanked the marae and the public for their support.

"Ever since I was diagnosed everything has been down the road, it's been tough," said B.

She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and is still undergoing treatment.  Prior to being taken by her father to Te Puea with four siblings, they had been living in a house with 15 others.

Marae spokesperson Hurimoana Dennis says WINZ had failed the family and the marae was a last resort.

But it has taken its toll.

Mr. Dennis' reputation was questioned after the office of the Social Development Minister, leaked information about an investigation into his work as a police officer.

"Sometimes my wife cries, and my Mum in Wellington, but I like to be strong. It comes from my Rongowhakataa and Ngati Porou sides even though here I'm under the mantle of Tainui Waikato," said Dennis.

He believed that any help that would support B, her family, and many others was worthwhile.

Willie Jackson is adamant that the Auckland housing shortage is the responsibility of the government and not marae.