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From a bus to a home

The house bus and caravan at Lake Domain Reserve where a Featherston mother lived with four of her children earlier this year. PHOTO/FILE

Tom Taylor

A mother of five living in a bus on the shores of Lake Wairarapa in February has now moved into a new home she hopes will last.

She has moved into a Trust House dwelling which she said had changed her life.

The Times-Age reported in February that the woman had exceeded the maximum stay of 21 days at Lake Domain Reserve and had been asked to move along.

Desperately searching for emergency accommodation, she had received an offer to park her bus for free on the front lawn of a one-bedroom house. From there, she had managed to secure emergency accommodation at a motel in Masterton.

She had thought it would be nice for the family to have some privacy and a bathroom of their own.

However, at the motel, she had feared for her children’s safety.

“My kids saw, for the first time, an adult get punched in the face… And then when the young ones got threatened to be assaulted by some other man, I just thought, ‘this is not the place to be’.”

After two days, she had left the motel and returned to her bus.

One week after the Times-Age published an article about her predicament, the woman received a call from Trust House connecting communities co-ordinator Donna Gray.

Gray told the woman they had a house for her.

“The house was mine if I wanted it, so I just dived on it,” the woman said.

She had moved into the house in Masterton a fortnight ago, and said the improvement in her quality of life had been immediate.

“All you need is some stability, and it makes the machine run so much better.”

Gray said “it was just pure luck” that the house had become available.

“As you well know, we have a huge housing shortage,” Gray said. “But a mum living in a bus…”

The Ministry of Social Development had notified Gray of the woman’s situation and asked if Gray could support her.

Gray rang a Trust House housing officer and was told that a newly renovated four-bedroom home was available.

“Because the need was urgent, we were able to offer it to [the woman].”

Gray said Trust House often had to make hard decisions when assessing people’s need for housing.

“We hope to be able to home lots of people… We celebrate those ones that we are able to help.”

In February, the woman had told the Times-Age that her four-year-old had been “volatile” and lashing out in frustration.

She said he had completely changed upon moving into the new home.

“He’s all soft, and singing songs about loving everybody, which is cute.”

Rent for the four-bedroom house was subsidised so that the woman only had to pay $147 a week. That meant that even though she had to relocate from Featherston to Masterton, she could afford to keep her children at the same schools they had been attending.

“I don’t have to rock the boat in any other way for them.”

She said her children had been setting up their own rooms and were thrilled to have their own space.

Meanwhile, the woman said she was enjoying life in a neighbourhood again. She had taken her dog for a walk and said that many elderly people had waved to her happily from their windows. She planned to plant fruit trees and do everything she could to make her property look appealing.

The woman had been struggling to find a house for her family since her landlords had moved back into their house in Featherston in January. She said the offer of the trust house had been a massive relief, as she now felt comfortable that even if she were too sick to work, she would still be able to support her family.

The woman suffered from complex regional pain syndrome, which had previously confined her to a wheelchair for two years.

While she had managed to come out of the wheelchair to take care of her youngest son, she could not continue operating her property maintenance business.

The lack of secure housing had affected her entire family, and the mental health of her children. In turn, that had impacted on her children’s teachers and friends.

She was now enrolling her children in counselling, which would occur within her home. She said that holding the sessions within her home would help to blend them into her home life and make them less daunting.

“The whole structure of how our economy functions is based on our families functioning, and the people in society being able to function,” she said.

“I wasn’t going to last much longer, mentally. [The house] came at the perfect time and really saved us as a family.”

Her 12-year-old son has just had his birthday, and she set up the house with minion decorations for a celebration.

However, she said she knew she got lucky, and was aware that many people in a situation like hers were still struggling.

“It’s still a very real crisis for so many.”

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