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Sowing seeds for a ‘beautiful, peaceful’ home

12 June 2019

A garden makeover has given strength to a tenant battling cancer, who was sleeping on a couch when she got her diagnosis.

Amelia with Stakeholder Relationship Manager Zoe

Amelia hadn’t slept in a bed in seven years before she was admitted to hospital. While there, she received a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Before that she stayed on people’s couches – mostly one of her daughters’ – after having to move out of her Rangiora, North Canterbury home after the earthquakes.

Support from her family ensured Amelia never had to sleep rough, but she struggled without a space, let alone a bed, to call her own.

“My daughter had an old couch, an old leather one, and I loved it in the end ... The kitchen was my room. I’d get up, fold the blankets up and put everything away, then have breakfast,” she said.

“But it’s difficult when you’re in bed and someone walks in, they’re making a cup of coffee or toast or something and you’re trying to get to sleep.”

After her diagnosis, Amelia spent two months in hospital before doctors told her there was nothing more they could do to treat her cancer. She was welcomed back to the home of her daughter, who insisted her mother share her bed before one of the bedrooms became available.

A social worker became aware of her situation and took it upon themselves to find Amelia a home.

In January, her hopes were fulfilled when she moved into a warm, new one-bedroom Housing New Zealand unit.

“It’s been great … I can go out and muck around, with what I can do outside, with my wee garden,” she said.

“You can see outside I’ve got pots. I like plants. I love flowers, and I’ve got all my little things out now, from storage.”

Her home is one of 28 newly-built units at High and White streets in Rangiora, the largest re-development undertaken by Housing New Zealand in North Canterbury. The modern units replace nine older houses that were no longer fit-for-purpose.

Work recently finished on the second and final stage of the development, and now tenants from all over Christchurch are calling this neighbourhood home.

“I love it here. I really do – it’s beautiful, peaceful. People are nice around here,” Amelia said.

Amelia basks in the sunlight and enjoys her new garden of pansies, lavender and more.

“I go outside and have a tea … and people will see me sitting here and the next minute I’ve got the whole neighbourhood sitting down, chatting. That’s what I like.”

The new homes have been built with communal spaces and our people will work with tenants to help strengthen their community. The site is very close to local shops, health services and public transport.

For Amelia, though, the best amenity is simply having a place to call her own. And she plans to enjoy it for a long while yet, she says.

“I’m not going anywhere … I said to the kids ‘you won’t be getting rid of me any time soon’.

“Being strong is the thing, and when you’ve got something to come home to like this it’s lovely.”

Acting Regional Manager Liz said she was “thrilled” to see Amelia thriving in her new home.

“Learning of the strength she has displayed through what we can only imagine has been an extremely difficult time for her is inspiring,” Liz said.

“The people we help into homes have often faced various personal challenges and we have seen the positive impact stable housing can have on someone’s life.”

Knowing the joy Amelia gets from her garden, two of our staff hatched a plan during a visit to her home one day.

The pair surprised her with a garden makeover – turning a small barked area into a place where lavender, polyanthus, violas and pansies could flourish. Amelia now spends lots of time sitting in the sun and enjoying her very own special space.

“It uplifts you when you’ve got something done like this,” Amelia said after seeing her new garden.

She can now go outside to “have a cuppa and smell the aroma”.

“It makes me feel even stronger. It’s made me feel really good. Really, really good. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

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