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About 140 people are currently living without basic shelter within walking distances of one of the region’s most vulnerable schools, it was revealed at a community meeting last night.

Merivale community leaders held a meeting at Merivale School last night to discuss temporary solutions to the housing shortage hitting vulnerable families in Tauranga and the Western Bay, including the possibility of opening up city buildings with kitchen and bathroom facilities to people living out of their cars.

About 60 people from the community including local residents, city councillors and social agency representatives turned up at the meeting.

They were split into groups and asked to brainstorm ideas on a large piece of paper.

Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti said the meeting was about coming up with some quick solutions now.

Of her schools’ roll of 150, 10 children and their families were currently homeless, with two more about to lose their homes.

Tommy Wilson, Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust social services director, said he knew of about 140 homeless people within walking distance of Merivale School.

This did not include the “streeties” who were homeless by choice, or the people living in overcrowded houses or garages.

People at the meeting admitted to breaking their Housing New Zealand tenancy agreements to take in family members who had lost their homes due to landlords selling up or raising rents to a level the tenants could not afford.

At the meeting, a young mother stood up to tell the crowd of the horrific problems she and her family were dealing with.

After growing up in a gang background, the mother had decided to turn her life around and was trying to get a house for her family. She asked her daughter’s father to take in the girl while she sorted things out, only to later found out the girl had been abused.

The young mother was in tears as she described how she had been trying to do right by her daughter, only for this to happen.

Possible solutions discussed at the meeting included opening up the Merivale Action Centre, which had kitchen and bathroom facilities, as a place for people to have a wash and cook a meal, asking people with large backyards to let a family park a caravan up, requesting that Housing New Zealand let homeless families park caravans at empty methamphetamine-contaminated state houses to use power and bathroom facilities, and opening up empty council land for people to camp on.

-Bay of Plenty Times

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