CURRENT EMERGENCY HOUSING NOT A SOLUTION FOR TEEN PARENTS
E Tipu E Rea Whānau supports mātua taiohi (young parents) aged 14-22 in Auckland.
Since October last year, nearly a third of our mātua taiohi have had to access MSD-funded immediate housing in motels.
While the issue of youth homelessness has been publicised in recent months by groups such as Lifewise and the Manaaki Rangatahi Collective, the additional challenges and complexities faced by young people with tamariki have not yet been made public.
E Tipu E Rea works with mātua taiohi and has seen that the current use of motels for immediate emergency housing is completely inappropriate for young māmā and their tamariki, who often live there for months at a time. Given the majority of mātua taiohi supported by E Tipu E Rea are Māori or Pasifika, this is an issue of equity that has far reaching ramifications.
E Tipu E Rea Social Worker Lauren Bartley shares the stories of young parents living in motels “many māmā staying in motels have reported incidences of harassment from other guests, violence in motel public spaces, and consistently feeling unsafe”
“I've had people trying to get in, yelling while my son is asleep” (young māmā, 19)
“One time when a lady was screaming … at like 2am… even the security guard who was there don’t do anything. Even when the cops drove past and she was still yelling as they're driving past they didn't do anything” (young māmā, 19)
“Every day I stay in my room with my baby. We never go outside because there are people smoking outside and strangers are hanging around outside, in corridors, outside the window. It’s not safe for me and my baby.” (young māmā, 20)
“Our neighbours were fighting and they threw stuff against the wall which backed onto our wall and woke us up” (young māmā, 22)
The motel rooms are usually very small and are not suitable for children, particularly toddlers as there is no room to play, and no way to block off the kitchen, meaning mātua taiohi are worried for the safety of their children. There is often no outdoor area, and if there is, young māmā do not feel safe spending time there. Visitors are usually prohibited, meaning young parents are alone with their children and isolated from their whānau/support networks.
“There’s not enough space for my baby to play” (young māmā, 17)
“The kitchen is not big enough to cook a proper meal for my son. There’s no way to block the kitchen off, so I get scared he will hurt himself while I’m asleep.” (young māmā, 18)
“When my baby is screaming, there’s no one allowed to come help me. I feel so alone” (young māmā, 17)
“It’s isolating in the room with no family or friends to come and visit, only allowed to visit outside in carpark…where there’s people sitting around” (young māmā, 18)
Zoe Hawke, CEO of E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services, states “We cannot keep putting vulnerable young parents into motels that do not meet their social, cultural, emotional and physical needs. Mātua taiohi are doing the best they can to raise their tamariki, but they are being prevented from being the best parents they can be by this housing crisis. For our tamariki and mātua taiohi we must address this issue now”
E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services social workers are finding that mātua taiohi frequently remain in emergency housing for months at a time.
“One young mum I work with has been in the motel for six months and counting, she is 17 and her baby is a year old. Half that baby’s life has been spent in a motel.” (social worker)
As part of their obligations to stay in emergency housing, mātua taiohi have to provide evidence to MSD they are looking for private rentals. However, as many of them are under 18, they can’t sign a tenancy anyway.
“The stress of trying to raise her child, finish her education and meet the requirement to view at least three rentals a week that she cannot even obtain as she is 17 and can’t sign a tenancy agreement” (social worker).
Those who are over 18 face ongoing stigma and discrimination as young parents from landlords and property managers preventing them from securing a safe long- term home.
“I’m applying for every rental I can find, and I keep getting turned down. It’s like they’ve got something against young parents” (young māmā, 19).
“The requirements of going to house viewings has been very hard with a baby. I've got no transport to get to viewings, I have to show evidence of viewings, and renewing my stay every week is very stressful and difficult for me. I always have that feeling of getting kicked out” (young māmā, 18).
Young māmā are being turned down for rentals again and again, and they are becoming exhausted, their sense of belonging, and self-esteem eroded, and they are often re-traumatised by the ongoing rejection.
“I’m just tired, I’m not getting anywhere” (young māmā, 19).
The impact of staying in a motel on the mental health and wellbeing of both the mātua taiohi and their tamariki is reaching crisis point. The compounding stressors have resulted in acute mental distress in these young parents, and in one case a suicide attempt.
Given our unique insight into the issues of housing for mātua taiohi, E Tipu E Rea are part of the Manaaki Rangatahi Collective, calling for urgent changes to the way young people access immediate housing. Young people deserve a better, more responsive approach to immediate accommodation, and young people with children even more so. Mātua taiohi have identified that one possible solution would be to have immediate accommodation that is exclusive to young parents and their tamariki that has adequate room and play facilities and is accessible to their support people. This would have wide-ranging positive ramifications, including increased safety and security, improved mental health and wellbeing, and healthy development for tamariki.
E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services are supportive of this solution and are currently writing a business plan for safe and sustainable child and young parent accommodation that meets their needs socially, mentally, physically and culturally.
As part of E Tipu E Rea Whanau Services research and advocacy work on mātua taiohi and housing, social worker Lauren Bartley is calling for the voice of mātua taiohi to help create the change needed “If you are a young parent who has been in emergency housing, we would love to hear from you and your experience first-hand so we can highlight the need and find appropriate solutions. Please get in touch with us if you are interested to sharing your story to help create change, we can support your voice to be heard.
We can support you if you are a young parent in Auckland – please get in touch.
Phone 09 551 4367 Email: [email protected]
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm – 11pm)
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: 09 376 4155
Available for interviews:
Zoe Hawke (Ngāti Hako, Ngāti Paoa): CEO - E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services .
Lauren Bartley: Social Worker and Policy and Advocacy Lead - E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services