Wellington homeless men feel ignored by WINZ

By Ani-Oriwia Adds

Troy and Joseph have been homeless for over 10 years. They say they're trying their best to get off the street but claim WINZ still won't help them.

While showing us his documents, Troy described the treatment he has received from WINZ.

"The next document is stating that I do have somewhat of a leg to stand on in sense of emergency accommodation. It states my history which requires the basics of life which is a house."

Joseph Witana, who is also living on the streets of Wellington, says, "My doctor tells me all the time, do not get cold at night time because your asthma gets bad. WINZ got my information. Every time I go to medical, they fax it to them and I drop off the form to make sure they get it so they don’t cut nothing."

In a statement to Te Kāea, a WINZ spokespersons said both men have been offered emergency housing assistance including the option to stay at the Wellington Night Shelter in the short-term while they sought a longer-term solution.

Oliver says "I stayed at the men's shelter here in Wellington city and a few of my personal belongings were removed from me while I was asleep. I woke up the following morning to no shoes on my feet."

Witana says, "It is not a very good idea to stay there. I know a few people up there and they do a lot of handover standover stuff."

Labour Spokesperson for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni is concerned and believes there's a lack of priority for people in the system. It stigmatises those who feel intimidated when they visit WINZ.

She says, "I don’t blame the staff that are working in the government agencies. I feel like they have been overly stretched as well and that they are seeing an increase in complex demand by the people seeking their support. I actually blame the government for allowing this culture to develop."

Witana says two years ago his benefit payments were cut every second week.

"I had to go backward and forwards and do the form things all over again and I can guarantee two weeks later it would be the same thing."

WINZ says Josephs and Troy's benefits stopped after they didn't receive important documentation about their circumstances. In both cases, payments were resumed and arrears paid once the evidence was provided.

Sepuloni says  "This is about the complaints procedure and ensuring that anyone who accesses the support of an integral government department like Work and Income New Zealand, that they're able to actually follow up if they feel like they’re not getting the support that they should have received."

WINZ says they have been supporting Troy Oliver and Joseph Witana's search for accommodation and will continue to offer support to both men when needed.