Six emergency housing units, which opened in Warkworth last month, are already full and still more families in the area are pleading for urgent accommodation.
De Paul House opened six homes in Warkworth during October, but within two weeks the homes had reached their capacity, accommodating 17 children and six adults.
Those who found sanctuary in the De Paul housing were either living in overcrowded conditions or were struggling to pay rent in their previous homes.
Meanwhile, De Paul is receiving new requests for emergency housing in the area at the rate of one a week and is calling on Warkworth landlords who can give assistance to come forward and offer any help they can. De Paul, a family support service which operates under the auspices of Auckland’s Catholic diocese, has been providing emergency accommodation in Northcote for the last 32 years.
It decided to expand its services to Warkworth following promptings from the Ministry of Social Development, the offer of the six housing units from a local landlord and its own research into housing needs in the area.
De Paul general manager Jan Routledge says they were surprised to discover the level of homelessness and overcrowding in Warkworth, and that it appears to be on the increase.
She adds that in stark contrast to Northcote, five of the six families in the De Paul housing in Warkworth have jobs, whereas only 30 per cent do in Northcote. She says the fact is that those on low wages in Warkworth cannot afford rent.
“It speaks to a low wage economy and that possibly reflects the kind of jobs that are available in Warkworth,” she says.
She says overcrowding typically sees around 12 people living in a three-bedroom house. It might include mum and dad, their children, their children’s partners and their grandchildren.
She says such situations lead to chronic health problems, bugs get passed around the household quickly and children miss school due to sickness.
Ms Routledge says most of De Paul’s evidence of the extent of homelessness in Warkworth comes anecdotally, but she applauds initiatives such as Ira Mata, Ira Tangata – the first region-wide street count of homelessness in the Auckland region, which was undertaken on the night of September 17.
Based on this count, it’s estimated there are about 800 people who are homeless in Auckland.
Organisers say a breakdown of the number of homeless in Mahurangi alone is still pending further analysis.
Advocate and family support worker Maria Collins, of Homebuilders Family Support Services, was among those conducting the count in Warkworth, Snells Beach, Algies Bay, Brick Bay and Matakana.
Ms Collins says she encountered people sleeping in cars in these areas – typically at beaches, outside community halls and anywhere where public toilets were available. She says her experience at Homebuilders confirms that many or the homeless have jobs, but still can’t afford accommodation. Others fail to meet the criteria for benefits.
One woman she knows, aged about 40, struggles to get assistance because she is single. Her home is often unsafe for her. She ends up sleeping in her car or in a shack without power or running water. She can’t store food, doesn’t eat well and is ashamed to go for a job interview because she can’t shower.
De Paul House declined to identify where its homes were in Warkworth as it did not wish their residents to be stigmatised. Landlords who can assist with providing accommodation in Mahurangi should call Jan Routledge on 09 480 5959.