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Supporting whānau into warm, safe and affordable housing

Children deserve to grow up in a society that cares for them. For many, New Zealand provides a safe and friendly environment for tamariki, with quality education and health services and an abundance of outdoor recreation activities. Sadly, many children in lower socio-economic areas grow up in inadequate and expensive housing with the consequence that they are unable to live to their potential, let alone have healthy lives free of avoidable illness. 

When CMM leases a house for a whānau in need, the proviso is always the same: all houses must be warm, affordable and secure. Every emergency, transitional and social house leased by CMM needs to meet at least those three criteria for the wellbeing of every person who will call that house home. 

Rebecca is the head of one such family that has benefitted from a house leased by CMM in the new Karamū development in Riccarton, Christchurch. Rebecca’s freezing and mould-infested house was making her four children so ill they were in and out of hospital with respiratory issues, including RSV. She felt guilty that she was unable to provide them anywhere better to live and simply had to contend with illness all the time. 

The chance to meet a CMM housing social worker enabled Rebecca to set the wheels in motion to leave her rental and move into a new CMM social housing unit at Karamū. Finally in a warm and well-insulated house, Rebecca’s children are not only free of respiratory illness caused by cold and mould but are thriving. Rebecca’s mind is now on Christmas and the joy of celebrating the festive season in a warm and comfortable home. 

Rebecca’s story illustrates perfectly the findings by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) spokesperson Susan St John that New Zealand children from poor families regularly suffer disease usually associated with developing countries. The major RSV outbreak last winter, a preventable disease associated with poverty and overcrowding, hospitalised hundreds of children including Rebecca’s. St John noted that pre-schoolers have worse health than those aged over five, with sudden infant death syndrome, poor oral health, skin infections and respiratory infections key issues. 

On October 7, CPAG criticised the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) child poverty report for failing to include the worst-off children who live in emergency accommodation, such as motels and garages. CPAG said it meant the true extent of child poverty in Aotearoa was likely to be much worse than portrayed. The report showed that rent took up more than 40 per cent of income in low-income households. 

As of June 30, some 393 children were living in Christchurch motels with their families, according to MSD. “Motels are no place to raise children. They are often small, cramped and not always safe,” says CMM Executive Director Jill Hawkey. “CMM has a long and solid history of addressing issues such as the housing crisis in a pragmatic and empathetic way, and our record on tenancy stability is strong. The importance of stability in housing can’t be understated. Every day, our housing social workers are out there ensuring tenants are able to maintain their tenancies and enjoy a decent lifestyle in warm, secure and affordable housing.” 

Across town from Rebecca, the 15 whānau in our Guild Street houses will be enjoying their third Christmas in a safe, affordable and warm home, testament to the wrap-around support CMM extends to all children we support. 

With the 200th anniversary this year of the arrival of the first Wesleyan missionaries in Aotearoa New Zealand, we reflect on the call to action of the founder of the Methodist church, John Wesley, who was angered at the prevailing level of poverty and injustice in England. He is attributed with pronouncing the famous words, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” 

Generations later and in a different country, CMM embodies and extols those values every day of the year, be it through the provision of emergency, transitional or social housing, care for pre-schoolers and for older people, social work with children and our community development initiatives. We will continue to do all we can in all the ways we can as long as social injustice prevails for the tamariki of Aotearoa New Zealand.