Homeless in two days

Man on dialysis and son need emergency accommodation quickly.

Man on dialysis and son need emergency accommodation quickly.

Facing homelessness: George Washington Driver, 75, needs power to opearte his dialysis machine (pictured) four times a day. But on Thursday morning, he and his teenage son will be homeless and forced to live in their car, which obvioulsy has no power. Picture by Liam Clayton

A GISBORNE man and his 13-year-old son face an impossible situation unless they can find emergency accommodation by Thursday.

George Washington Driver, 75, has to have dialysis four times a day for up to one hour each time. He is the sole caregiver for his teenage son. The two have been living in a motel for the past two weeks but the room has been pre-booked for Easter guests and they have to be out on Thursday morning.

The only option is for them to live in their car, but his daily self-dialysis requires power.

Mr Driver cannot get to the hospital for dialysis as he has no one to look after his son and can only drive short distances.

His son is also his caregiver in return, organising his dad’s dialysis machine before high school every day and helping him with general day-to-day activities.

Mr Driver says he has approached Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) for help but they told him because he left suitable accommodation and then put himself up in a motel, he did not meet the criteria for an accommodation supplement or to get on the waiting list for emergency housing.

Mr Driver and his son had been living with family but were given two weeks notice to move out at the beginning of March.

Housing situation getting worse

Age Concern social worker Katie Macrae says Gisborne is in a huge emergency housing crisis and the situation is getting worse.

She is disgusted that Government departments were not willing to help and obviously not communicating with each other.

“What gets me is that he is not the only person who cannot get on to the emergency housing waiting list because of not meeting the criteria.

“I have a man living in his van at the showgrounds with winter coming. But because he is in a van, that is deemed suitable accommodation. To WINZ that’s suitable.

“Housing NZ and WINZ don’t seem to be communicating with each other as to who needs a house and what houses are available.

“Meanwhile, George has had to fork out $110 a day for the motel for him and his son. If he has to live in his car, he is screwed.

“I am horrified that you can’t get through to WINZ at all. It is so frustrating that because he has put himself up in this motel, and he left his family’s home, that he does not meet criteria for help and his money is running out.”

Ms Macrae said if Mr Driver and his son did end up homeless, then the only good thing was that with no home and no money, they could then go to WINZ and say, “Now what are you going to do?”.

“But that is a situation we don’t want them in.”

As of yesterday, Mr Driver had about $1000 left in the bank, which he had hoped to use towards rent, bond and buying whiteware like a washing machine and fridge for when he and his son do find a place of their own.

Mr Driver said he had tried applying for rental accommodation in the private sector but a disputes tribunal claim, which ruled against him last year, had put a black mark by his name.

The father and son had been living with family until that situation came to an end in March, and they were forced to live temporarily in a motel — which, at $110 a day, had completely drained the funds. But he felt there was no other option.

“I’d just like a house that we can live in so that I can do what we need to instead of worrying, worrying, worrying.”

NZ citizens

Mr Driver and his son are both New Zealand citizens. His former wife, and mother of his children, still lives in Fiji but Mr Driver has custody of their youngest son. The couple’s two older sons live in Auckland and are also trying to help their father but Mr Driver does not want to burden them.

He says the only funds he has access to are a rapidly dwindling back account, and a small reserve fund he set up for his teenage son’s future, which he does not want to touch.

Mr Driver says the last few weeks of having the uncertainty of where they will live had been “exhausting” mentally and physically. As well as bad kidneys, for which he needs daily dialysis, he also has reduced mobility due to a raft of other issues including back problems, and two total knee replacements.

He has a mobility scooter that he can take to the supermarket but only if it is not raining. He uses the car every Sunday to drive to church and back, but other than that he is very home-bound.

The pastor of the church he attends has been trying to help with accommodation but the closest that has been suggested is a home that is not available for four weeks.

The prospect of living in a car and needing power four times a day for his self-dialysis, as well as getting his son to school every day in a clean uniform and on time, is a situation bordering on impossible.

They need help and they need it fast.

Boarding houses, aged care unsuitable

Ms Macrae said WINZ had recommended boarding houses and aged care — but this was not a good option for Mr Driver or his son, and they definitely wanted to stay together.

She did not feel that either of the boarding houses recommended by WINZ were at all suitable in the circumstances.

“WINZ say they have to try these places but they have to be suitable.

“It is a terrible situation we have here in Gisborne and things are getting worse.”

Ms Macrae said Mr Driver’s family have since turned around and said they would have them back but he does not want to go back, or feel welcome.

“He should be able to have that choice without WINZ telling him that unless he does they will not help him.

“It is diabolical and we have nowhere to house these people.

“WINZ and Housing NZ are obviously not communicating to each other as there are houses available.

“You are assessed over the phone to determine your situation and if you have failed to look for housing market rentals, trade me, real estate or boarding houses then it’s a straight out “you don’t fit our criteria” and told to try these avenues and prove you haven’t been able to find accommodation for one reason or another then you have to go through the phone process again.”

Response from the Ministry of Social Development:

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Annie Aranui said staff had been in regular contact with Mr Driver and his family since he first approached them to discuss his housing needs on February 13.

“His family have indicated to us on a number of occasions that he is welcome to stay with them; however, he has declined to take up this offer.”

Mr Driver confirmed that he did not want to go back and live with his family as the relationship was irreconcilable.

Ms Aranui said they found it difficult to establish the full situation despite repeated attempts to do so.

“It is very difficult to establish someone’s eligibility for social and emergency housing and other assistance if they do not provide us with full information as requested, including details relating to income and assets.

“We are contacting Mr Driver to discuss what housing options might be available, including private rental options. If a private rental is found, we may be able to help with bond and rent-in-advance, depending on financial eligibility.”

A GISBORNE man and his 13-year-old son face an impossible situation unless they can find emergency accommodation by Thursday.

George Washington Driver, 75, has to have dialysis four times a day for up to one hour each time. He is the sole caregiver for his teenage son. The two have been living in a motel for the past two weeks but the room has been pre-booked for Easter guests and they have to be out on Thursday morning.

The only option is for them to live in their car, but his daily self-dialysis requires power.

Mr Driver cannot get to the hospital for dialysis as he has no one to look after his son and can only drive short distances.

His son is also his caregiver in return, organising his dad’s dialysis machine before high school every day and helping him with general day-to-day activities.

Mr Driver says he has approached Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) for help but they told him because he left suitable accommodation and then put himself up in a motel, he did not meet the criteria for an accommodation supplement or to get on the waiting list for emergency housing.

Mr Driver and his son had been living with family but were given two weeks notice to move out at the beginning of March.

Housing situation getting worse

Age Concern social worker Katie Macrae says Gisborne is in a huge emergency housing crisis and the situation is getting worse.

She is disgusted that Government departments were not willing to help and obviously not communicating with each other.

“What gets me is that he is not the only person who cannot get on to the emergency housing waiting list because of not meeting the criteria.

“I have a man living in his van at the showgrounds with winter coming. But because he is in a van, that is deemed suitable accommodation. To WINZ that’s suitable.

“Housing NZ and WINZ don’t seem to be communicating with each other as to who needs a house and what houses are available.

“Meanwhile, George has had to fork out $110 a day for the motel for him and his son. If he has to live in his car, he is screwed.

“I am horrified that you can’t get through to WINZ at all. It is so frustrating that because he has put himself up in this motel, and he left his family’s home, that he does not meet criteria for help and his money is running out.”

Ms Macrae said if Mr Driver and his son did end up homeless, then the only good thing was that with no home and no money, they could then go to WINZ and say, “Now what are you going to do?”.

“But that is a situation we don’t want them in.”

As of yesterday, Mr Driver had about $1000 left in the bank, which he had hoped to use towards rent, bond and buying whiteware like a washing machine and fridge for when he and his son do find a place of their own.

Mr Driver said he had tried applying for rental accommodation in the private sector but a disputes tribunal claim, which ruled against him last year, had put a black mark by his name.

The father and son had been living with family until that situation came to an end in March, and they were forced to live temporarily in a motel — which, at $110 a day, had completely drained the funds. But he felt there was no other option.

“I’d just like a house that we can live in so that I can do what we need to instead of worrying, worrying, worrying.”

NZ citizens

Mr Driver and his son are both New Zealand citizens. His former wife, and mother of his children, still lives in Fiji but Mr Driver has custody of their youngest son. The couple’s two older sons live in Auckland and are also trying to help their father but Mr Driver does not want to burden them.

He says the only funds he has access to are a rapidly dwindling back account, and a small reserve fund he set up for his teenage son’s future, which he does not want to touch.

Mr Driver says the last few weeks of having the uncertainty of where they will live had been “exhausting” mentally and physically. As well as bad kidneys, for which he needs daily dialysis, he also has reduced mobility due to a raft of other issues including back problems, and two total knee replacements.

He has a mobility scooter that he can take to the supermarket but only if it is not raining. He uses the car every Sunday to drive to church and back, but other than that he is very home-bound.

The pastor of the church he attends has been trying to help with accommodation but the closest that has been suggested is a home that is not available for four weeks.

The prospect of living in a car and needing power four times a day for his self-dialysis, as well as getting his son to school every day in a clean uniform and on time, is a situation bordering on impossible.

They need help and they need it fast.

Boarding houses, aged care unsuitable

Ms Macrae said WINZ had recommended boarding houses and aged care — but this was not a good option for Mr Driver or his son, and they definitely wanted to stay together.

She did not feel that either of the boarding houses recommended by WINZ were at all suitable in the circumstances.

“WINZ say they have to try these places but they have to be suitable.

“It is a terrible situation we have here in Gisborne and things are getting worse.”

Ms Macrae said Mr Driver’s family have since turned around and said they would have them back but he does not want to go back, or feel welcome.

“He should be able to have that choice without WINZ telling him that unless he does they will not help him.

“It is diabolical and we have nowhere to house these people.

“WINZ and Housing NZ are obviously not communicating to each other as there are houses available.

“You are assessed over the phone to determine your situation and if you have failed to look for housing market rentals, trade me, real estate or boarding houses then it’s a straight out “you don’t fit our criteria” and told to try these avenues and prove you haven’t been able to find accommodation for one reason or another then you have to go through the phone process again.”

Response from the Ministry of Social Development:

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Annie Aranui said staff had been in regular contact with Mr Driver and his family since he first approached them to discuss his housing needs on February 13.

“His family have indicated to us on a number of occasions that he is welcome to stay with them; however, he has declined to take up this offer.”

Mr Driver confirmed that he did not want to go back and live with his family as the relationship was irreconcilable.

Ms Aranui said they found it difficult to establish the full situation despite repeated attempts to do so.

“It is very difficult to establish someone’s eligibility for social and emergency housing and other assistance if they do not provide us with full information as requested, including details relating to income and assets.

“We are contacting Mr Driver to discuss what housing options might be available, including private rental options. If a private rental is found, we may be able to help with bond and rent-in-advance, depending on financial eligibility.”

This story has been amended to include comments from the Ministry of Social Development, which arrived too late to include in yesterday's newspaper.

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Shelley Hannah Kingi ( Co-Ordinator of Tairawhiti Beneficiary Advocacy Trust) - 2 years ago
Totally saddened to see that someone who has a lot of health issues has had to end up funding their own emergency accommodation. The emergency accommodation situation is worsening here in Gisborne and with winter coming pretty fast, there is not much in place at this stage to cater for it. We as an advocacy service deal with people daily with emergency housing needs and the situation is getting worse by the week. I have been dreading this week, as those who were lucky enough to acquire emergency accommodation would have to move out for those previously booked for the long weekend.

Ruby - 2 years ago
It's called Housing New Zealand, not Housing the World. It's all about money today - money before human life, the National Party way. Sad as.

Jo - 2 years ago
New Zealand, it's happening everywhere. I was homeless with two kids for six months, now I'm in Auckland paying $570 a week.
I'm not sure what is worse, sleeping in my car or trying to live when paying this kind of rent.
I was offered a two-bedroom Housing NZ house but turned it down because I could not fit two beds in either room. I had no one from HNZ with me - I was told to go and have a look on my own. Now I have a 36-week stand down.
I have been looking for a cheaper rental but heaps of people want housing.
I do have a spare room for someone.

Lena Bennett - 2 years ago
For crying out loud, this man is on dialysis. This is life-threatening, and this is an emergency need for housing. Our NZ system is going down the bloody tube.
There are houses here in Gisborne that need repairs. Why don't they spend money on those houses instead of motels?

Lena - 2 years ago
It is indeed sad. There are plenty of empty HNZ homes around my area with boards as windows and empty wtf. What are you housing people/Winz waiting for? Pull your thumbs outta your bums and do them up and house our poor homeless peoples/families.

Frodo - 2 years ago
What next, maybe world war 3. Where would NZ be? Look the govt hiding a lot of things and getting fat royal pay packets while NZ is going downhill. Everybody is affected and overcrowding NZ as it is. Pity the Department of Statistics didn't know the info before we have a huge problem. And we are close to WWIII.

Shepo - 2 years ago
I feel very sorry for this guy, I have been on dialysis both PD and Hemo, looks like he does PD, and the picture shows manual PD. This doesn't need power, but the poor guy should be able to do this somewhere that is hygienic, and in a car is not the place to be doing this. It is easy to get an infection and then he will be in hospital. I feel sorry that he is having to deal with all this and has to also deal with doing dialysis.

Anahera - 2 years ago
What is happening to us? What happened to humility, respect and empathy? With a story like this what are we showing the next generations? That we as so called "adults" are meant to teach them when we can't even get it right. He's not asking for a handout, but a hand up, bureaucrats need to learn the difference.

Donna - 2 years ago
Winz IS appalling. I'm talking about Gisborne case managers. Some of them are good but the rest... pfft I don't even know why they're working there. Some are just so judgmental and cruel without even knowing that they are the reason why they need that much security around their office. The way they talk to you, the way they look at you - only looking at what they have on record about you. But they don't know the situation you're in and have been in, the struggles you're going through. Speaking from experience. Although I was and am very appreciative of what they do, it's just sometimes they don't feel (to me) like they see us as peers. They sure as hell don't treat us like we are! They need to realise that they're in a position where they CAN help people, just sometimes choose to take advantage (in a bad way) of it. Sad!! And disgusting.

jsmk - 2 years ago
Can someone in Gisborne please just house this poor man?

Jewelle - 2 years ago
Not on all right NZ, this is an outrage. How INHUMANE can you be. Lol

Wendy - 2 years ago
And I bet it will be the ones on the poverty income that will be offering this man and son a roof with power before any other person who has a nicely decked out home. I know if I was still in Gisborne I would be. I was homeless several times in 2 years and Winz did not care one bit. It wasn't the case officer it was the system. I was homeless recently with my 3 children and waited 6 months for HNZ property to be offered not in my hometown Gisborne either so now we live in a different town 3 hours drive away. It was a emotional up and down rollercoaster for us as well with an epileptic child as well. From sleeping in the car to friends' places for showers is an embarrassment itself. Come on Winz, come on Bill English, do something for this man. Why be rude and turn a blind eye?

winston moreton - 2 years ago
Once upon a time there was a government agency called the Housing Corporation of New Zealand. It loaned money to young couples to buy their first home and it provided state rental houses. NZ had the highest number of citizens who owned their own home in the world. In 1988 the Housing Corp. owned 70% of all residential rental properties in NZ. What happened? The government, which included a brilliant Minister of Finance called Roger Douglas, decided to sell HCNZ's assets and it did; to people like the Australian-owned Trading Banks.
What has our wonderful government done with the proceeds of the sale of the $7 billion first-home-buyers mortgage portfolio plus the untold billions made from the ongoing sale of former state houses?

Anonymous - 2 years ago
It's the system. HNZ and Winz are not all bad. It may seem like it here. They were a blessing to me.
See I was in these shoes a few months ago. Just after New Years my family and I found ourselves homeless... The struggle was real. We weren't evicted, we weren't short of money, which makes it harder to apply for HNZ. You see, my mum's teaching contract wasn't renewed, which meant the teachers house was not available to us as a family anymore.
Long story short, we ended up staying in a shearers quarters for a few weeks, before receiving a phone call from HNZ asking if I accept a property. Of course I snapped it up straight away. It was perfect. It meant we could stay in the area my children schooled in, where my family are, where I'm from.
Going back to the shearers quarters, I must tell you. While some people turned their nose up at even the thought of sleeping in one, I was very grateful to the committee and family for even allowing my family and I to use these facilities while being on a waiting list for housing.
So it may seem that HNZ and Winz are rotten, they are not all bad! I held on to what little money I had left, for rent and bond for HNZ all to find out, when you accept and get accepted, Winz actually pays your bond and 2 weeks in advance. I didn't think I qualified for that, as I don't receive a benefit.
It is not the workers' fault. I'm sure they find it hard and heartbreaking, having to follow the rules and the system that is put in place. I could ramble on and on, but I just wanted to share that. I do hope and pray that the man and his child find housing. Wishing him all the luck.

Angela Warren - 2 years ago
This is sad, HNZ should help him out and give him a house, are they really that heartless? Come on HNZ, do your job properly, do the right thing.

PM - 2 years ago
Inexcusable Winz, the father's 13-year-old boy, who is more responsible than any child needs to be, has risen above and shown more compassion effort than our government agencies. To care for his father as his father is trying to do for him.

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