Emergency housing: Grandmother speaks out about Governments new motel plan

A Rotorua grandmother says she feels emergency housing clients are being “herded like sheep” into different motels under the Government’s new policy.

The woman, who looks after her primary school-aged grandchild, said her granddaughter, 9, had lived in three different emergency housing motels and she was finally settled.

She was now being forced to move to a different motel and was worried it could be a backward step.

But Government departments say, although it might take time to settle into contracted motels, the aim is to improve living situations until they can find permanent housing.

The Government announced in May that it would directly contract motels in Rotorua for emergency accommodation as part of a $30 million shake-up of the controversial.system.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development had taken over responsibility for contracting motels and motels could no longer be used for both emergency housing and visitors.

The grandmother, who did not want to be named, lives in the Red Rock Thermal Motel on Lake Rd.

She said she had been there since February after the rental she was in was sold by her landlord and she wasn’t able to find another property.

Despite feeling ashamed about living in emergency housing, she said she “loved it” there.

She felt safe, it was on a good side of town for her granddaughter’s schooling and her motel unit had cooking facilities, she said.

However the motel was not one of the 12 motels the Government had recently contracted to house 200 families and she had been told she needed to sign a form saying she was prepared to move to a motel operated by Visions of a Helping Hand Trust – the agency the Government had employed to run five of its motels.

She had not been told which motel she would go to but would be required to sign the form and move in three weeks.

She said her daughter had recently been moved to the Lake Rotorua Motel, about 50m away also on Lake Rd, which was operated by Visions of a Helping Hand Trust but her daughter’s room did not have cooking facilities.

The grandmother said she was cooking for her daughter at her motel and taking the food to her to reheat in the microwave.

The grandmother cried when she talked about her fear of being moved.

“I just want to speak for my granddaughter because she can’t speak for herself. My granddaughter is doing really well now and she’s settled at school. It’s taken me ages to get her used to it (the current motel). They say kids are resilient but there’s only so much they can take. I’m so stressed about this.”

She said those in motels without kitchen facilities were doing their dishes in the bathrooms, which was culturally inappropriate.

“Why do we have to lower ourselves and change the way we are? I really don’t want to be in emergency housing because you get judged so much. I feel like we are getting herded around like sheep and I feel like that isn’t right.”

Housing and Urban Development Ministry deputy chief executive of housing supply, response and partnerships Anne Shaw responded to Rotorua Daily Post questions saying the aim was to provide a warm, safe and supported place to stay for people in urgent need while they sought more permanent accommodation.

Shaw confirmed the Red Rock Thermal Motel was not a contracted Government motel and motels that didn’t have kitchens in all units were having kitchen facilities installed.

She said this was the case at Lake Rotorua Motel which was having work done to install kitchens.

The Ministry of Social Development was asked if people would still be supported in emergency housing in non-contracted motels if they didn’t want to move.

Ministry Bay of Plenty regional commissioner Mike Bryant said it would depend on the person’s circumstances and is something they would consider on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re happy to meet with this kuia and talk with her about how we may be able to address her concerns.”

Bryant said the ministry was not able to address the concerns without knowing who the woman was and where she could be moving to. The grandmother told the Rotorua Daily Post she wanted her details to remain confidential because she was concerned about speaking out.

However, Bryant said “wellbeing of the whānau we help with housing is at the top of our minds”.

“We understand it may take some time for families to feel settled in contracted motels. We want to reassure this kuia, and others that may be moving from emergency housing into a contracted motel or transitional housing, the aim is to help them, and their mokopuna.”

He said any concerns about keeping children connected to their schools could be addressed through their flexible funding programme.

He said the intention was to offer a warm, safe, supported place with providers able to help families as they tried to get more permanent accommodation.

“We wouldn’t look at moving people into accommodation that isn’t adequate and want to encourage clients to talk to us about any concerns, so we can work together with the providers and HUD to ensure these are being remedied.”

Visions of a Helping Hand Trust founder and chief executive Tiny Deane said if the grandmother had concerns about where she was moving to, she was welcome to contact him.

He didn’t want to comment about the woman’s concerns, saying the decision to move people from emergency housing motels to contracted motels was the Government’s choice.

“We have nothing to do with pulling people out of motels.”

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