'Not safe for me and my baby' - Youth advocacy service says emergency accommodation dangerous for clients

Auckland-based youth advocacy service E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services (ETERWS) says emergency accommodation facilities are dangerous for their clients. They say their clients in the facilities live in fear of violation and violence.

“We cannot keep putting vulnerable young parents into motels,” Zoe Hawke, CEO of ETERWS, says. Source: Supplied/Te Karere

By Bronson Perich of Te Karere

“I've had people trying to get in,” a 19-year-old mother said.

“It’s not safe for me and my baby,” a 20-year-old mother added.

A 22-year-old mother says she was housed in a facility alongside drug users.

ETERWS work with young parents access social services including emergency housing. The varying family dynamics mean these parents are often without traditional whānau support networks.

Often visitors are either restricted from or unable to enter emergency accommodation premises.

“When my baby is screaming, there’s no one allowed to come help me,” a 17-year-old mother said.

“I feel so alone.”

Unfit for purpose

ETERWS social worker Lauren Bartley says she’s had one of her clients attempt suicide while in emergency housing. While the mother survived, Bartley says the facilities are not fit for purpose and urgent action is required.

Zoe Hawke is the CEO for ETERWS. She’s adamant that the money being spent by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) putting people in emergency housing could be spent on providing permanent housing.

Source: TVNZ

“We cannot keep putting vulnerable young parents into motels,” Hawke said.

“For our tamariki and mātua taiohi we must address this issue now.”

Hawke says repurposed motels are not the right place to raise children in.

Emergency accommodation. Source: Supplied via Te Karere.

MSD agrees

Karen Hocking, general manager of housing for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) says motels are not ideal for raising children as well.

But providing permanent housing, she says, is outside of MSD’s scope.

“Our role at MSD is to ensure for those with no other housing options are supported,” Hocking said.

This means putting people with nowhere else to go into emergency accommodation. Motels are the go-to temporary solution.

Clients with mental health needs, Hocking says, a provided with wrap-around support such as intensive case managers.

Kāinga Ora

The role of providing long-term and transitional housing belongs to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Kāinga Ora is the Crown agency tasked with fulfilling HUD’s housing mandate. 

A spokesperson from HUD says Kāinga Ora is building 8000 public and transitional housing places by June 2024. 

They add Kāinga Ora has 3200 homes under construction or under contract to be built with another 5300 in the planning stage.