Yesterday I sat on the Cross Party Inquiry into Homelessness in Wellington. After five hours I came away feeling stunned.
I’ve heard the numbers before – 43,000 people homeless or experiencing severe housing deprivation – but I was still unprepared for the raw stories told by mothers and other submitters.
The impact of their experiences left me struggling to hold back tears and wondering how on earth did things get so bad in New Zealand?
We heard from a mother who told of finding her son sobbing in the bedroom because they had had to move house 22 times in the last three years and was dreading moving yet again.
We heard from another how her child contracted pneumonia and nearly died due to substandard housing.
We heard about a young mum of five who committed suicide because they were rejected yet again for rental accommodation because her partner was a former gang member.
Another mother told us how she had to send her children to walk to school in all weathers because she needed the $4 bus fare to help pay the rent and she didn’t know what they would do if the rent was increased yet again. You can see her talking here.
We heard from women trying to leave violent relationships only to find they had nowhere to go.
It is clear to me that the long term psychological harm that is being done through this Government’s policies and failure to act on housing is a leaving a damaging legacy that we will be dealing for many years.
As a country we can and must to better than this. Everyone has the right to secure housing. Most of all our children.