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'It made me stronger' — a woman's journey from sleeping rough while pregnant to refuge

Eliza Ruri was pregnant when she found herself sleeping rough, living in cars and sometimes even in the bush for a year.

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Eliza Ruri was pregnant with her son Tūtānekai when she was sleeping rough. Source: Breakfast

Now in transitional housing, she told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning the experience was “uncomfortable and it made me worry a lot”.

But, Ruri said recalling the time didn’t upset her anymore. 

“I’ve learnt to heal it and move on from it. I’m actually quite glad I went through what I went through because, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have appreciated everything that I’ve got now. 

“It actually made me stronger.”

Ruri escaped from an abusive environment in Ngāruawāhia to Tauranga in the hopes of finding safety.

But, she said she didn’t realise that doing so would leave her without a roof over her head.

It was not until she met a police officer, who made a call to Tuinga Whānau Trust, that she was able to find her way out of the situation.

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Tommy Wilson described to Breakfast how a chain of kindness helped homeless woman Eliza Ruri. Source: Breakfast

The Te Tuinga Whānau Trust has set up a transitional home inside the local RSA for families in need during lockdown.

Now, she said she is thriving with her four-moth-old, Tūtānekai, and is looking towards renting her own place soon. 

“It wasn't for my son, I wouldn’t have got to where I am today.”

Natalia Cleland — outreach leader at the Downtown Community Ministry, which tries to find housing for Wellington’s most vulnerable — said Ruri’s story was the reality for many.

In October, it was estimated there were 20,000 people on the social housing waitlist, Cleland said. 

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While it is good that people are finding a place to stay in temporary housing, “it’s not a suitable long-term solution for people” because it isn’t a proper home, she said. 

Cleland said “a range of things” need to happen to improve things for people. 

They include the Government building more social housing, landlords offering up their properties for community housing, and providing housing where people can have a safe place to stay while trying to reduce their substance abuse, she said.