De Paul House, on Auckland’s North Shore, has now become a social housing provider, in addition to its previous transitional housing and support services, after it successfully switched its transitional housing property in Warkworth to permanent rental accommodations for the families already occupying the properties.
DPH general manager Jan Rutledge said this has been a big shift, which has been remarkable considering that it was achieved during alert levels 4 and 3 lockdowns.
“The families in Warkworth are really well-integrated in that community. They are working up there. They are going to school. They are thriving. Their only challenge is around affordable housing,” she said.
With the shift to permanent rental housing, these families gain independence. Ms Rutledge said that previously they would have had to follow rules such as no visitors after 9 pm, fortnightly inspection, and regular catch-ups with social workers.
“It gives them permanency. And they have struggled, that community, to find quality and affordable housing up there in the Warkworth area,” she said.
Ms Rutledge said most of the eleven families occupying the units belong to the lower income bracket.
“They already pay a small contribution under transitional housing, but they’ll now move to the same rental as Kianga Ora or Housing New Zealand. So, you don’t pay more than 25 per cent of your income in rent. It’s affordable,” she said.
Ms Rutledge said that community or social housing is something that DPH is looking at in terms of strategic direction.
“But there’s always going to be a need for transitional housing. The need for transitional housing has not gone away. If anything, it’s increased hugely,” she said.
Ms Rutledge said that the recent lockdowns had been challenging for the staff, and had affected projects that are already in the pipeline.
The Akoranga property that is being redeveloped with the Auckland diocese was supposed to be opened by November 1, but was delayed because the builders cannot go to the site under level 4 – and the building materials were also delayed.
“We’re still hopeful that it will open [at the] end of November . . . and those are another 10 quality units,” she said.
Ms Rutledge said the units at Lake Road in Narrowneck also took a while to be opened because the furniture that came from overseas was held up at the Napier port.
“But that’s all sorted. We’ve now got four families living in there,” she said. She said the 12-unit property will be filled up by the middle of October.
She said it was challenging to interview families and give the inductions by Zoom.
“It’s very hard for the family, too, because they have to trust us, without necessarily getting to know us,” Ms Rutledge said.
She said a young mum who came to the Lake Road property broke down in tears of relief. The mum and her child previously lived in a motel which didn’t have a kitchen. The Lake Road property is new, with high end appliances and heating.
Ms Rutledge said the Covid-19 Delta variant also necessitated an additional screen stage in the interviews of prospective clients by DPH.
“We’re asking them now, in the admission interview, ‘have you been vaccinated?’ Many of our people have been fully vaccinated, but for those who haven’t, we actually ask them to do a Covid test. So that’s a new part to our admissions,” she said.
“The other part of what we can do is sending them the right information. We also have a mobile vaccination clinic coming to our sites next week just to help people.”