A place to call home, a place to cook a meal and a place to belong to is something Housing New Zealand tenant Trish is looking forward to this Christmas.
This time last year Trish was living in emergency accommodation after being made homeless.
Christmas was spent in a motel room, with a two-hob hotplate for cooking facilities and a mini fridge just large enough to hold the basic essentials but not the traditional Christmas fare.
“As an adult you never forget your childhood memories of Christmas, and the reflection is often about the home, being around your mum, your dad, your grandparents and other family. Returning home to see and embrace everyone, laughter, disagreements and forgiveness, being at home to celebrate with family and friends are what Christmas is about.
When you’re living in a motel, out of a carry-on suitcase and cooking on a hob, it’s not the same. You feel displaced and the reality of being homeless becomes more ingrained than ever before,” says Trish.
But in October this year she got the call she had been hoping for. Housing New Zealand had secured her a new home in the Te Maru o Tawatawa development in Britomart Street, in the Wellington suburb of Berhampore.
“The call when it came was so unexpected and Teupe (Placement Manager) said to me, ‘Are you sitting down? I’ve got some news for you; we’re going to offer you a home.
“I took a deep breath and then she said, ‘It’s in the new Britomart complex, on the ground floor and it meets all your needs.’ There was a moment of silence before Teupe asked me if I was still on the phone. She didn’t realise I was crying, I was just so happy and grateful to Housing New Zealand. They had always been my hope, more so as ‘fit-for-purpose’ accommodation for disabled people is hard to come by and Housing New Zealand was the best Christmas wish ever after a long 12 months of patiently waiting,” says Trish.
Trish, who is partially disabled and needs a walker to get around, asked Housing New Zealand to consider her for a ground floor unit so she could manage her independence better.
“The best part was that I had been listened to and Housing New Zealand understood how important this was for me. “When I first saw my home it felt like a dream”.
When Rebecca (Tenancy Manager) handed me the keys and I signed the tenancy agreement I was like ‘yes, this is finally happening’. When my support worker and I walked inside my new home, I went and looked at every single bit of the unit, touching the cabinetry and most of all hugging the oven, I was like ‘wow; I have a kitchen and an oven – an oven!’ When you’ve been living in emergency housing and a motel and not having a full size oven or a proper size fridge then to suddenly have these things is the most wonderful thing.”
The joy of her new home did not even stop Trish, who is studying for a bachelors degree in Political Science and Public Policy, from moving a week before her exams.
“My classmates and lecturers were speechless that I was moving home right before exams, but I just knew I wanted to make this happen as I had been looking forward to this for such a long time. And even with the upheaval of the move I scored 82 percent on one of my exam papers. This was because I knew I had a home.”
Trish says now that she is settled in her home she is starting to connect with her local community and meet her neighbours.
“We’ve started a coffee group and meeting with my neighbours each week is something I really look forward to. We all have our stories, we all have our issues, but we feel settled now and the people living here want to get involved in their community and give back.
“I never thought I would end up here; I never thought I would need government assistance to live. Having support to access social housing meant I could have a quality of life equal to all New Zealand citizens. I can now carry on with my studies, and I can live with dignity.”