The government loan only bought her family two weeks at the local motel. It looks like Nicole and her children would have to sleep in the car again.
After begging Work and Income to loan her another $2200, Nicole has no choice but to move her six, two, and eight-week-old back beneath the only roof they have left — a hatchback filled with used clothes, half-eaten food and trash bags.
Not every other homeless person is as fortunate, though. Off to the streets once more, just a few thousand dollars deeper in the hole.
"My really strong advice is to go and see Work and Income,” replied Prime Minister John Key when asked about the citizens currently living in cars and garages. “We'll see what we can do, because I think people very often don't understand what's available to them,” he adds. Apparently, debt and uncertainty are what’s available.
"I've just spoken with a woman who now has a debt of over $60,000 to Work and Income," said Alastair Russell of Auckland Action Against Poverty. The organisation is just one of many that are questioning the current strategy in assisting the homeless population. They explain that lending people thousands of dollars to stay in motels is not very practical, that it hampers — if not completely prevents, the borrowers’ ability to regain their financial footing.
According to lenders from Rapid Loans, homeless individuals must seek government assistance, especially if they have children with them. They cite the Prime Minister’s statement reporting a mere 428 people who inquired with Work and Income last March.
Social Housing deputy chief executive Carl Crafar weighs in by saying that motel mortgages are sometimes the only assistance the government could provide to the few individuals who approached them. "Our priority has to be to address an immediate need, and paying for motel or hotel accommodation may be the only option available," Crafar says, adding that how they try to seek alternative ways to assist the homeless. “We could look into whether family or friends are able to help. We are able to refer people on to emergency housing providers and can help with immediate financial assistance,” he explains.
The government is now in the process of revamping the emergency housing system, with changes (no longer involving loans) to take effect on September. Alternative housing options may be solution Nicole’s family needs; but hopefully, for their and the other homeless citizens’ sake, winter does not turn out to be a few months to many to endure.