For the first time TRM have had prospective guests request TRM’s policy with Work & Income “clients”. Recently there has been so many stories about Government using motels as emergency shelters, and as confirmed below, even buying them, that – for the benefit of other guests – we need to be clear of TRM’s policy.
It is very simple. We have advised WINZ booking agents – usually the iSite visitor centre info office – that TRM will not accept anyone referred from Work & Income. Just so that you understand that we are not being paranoid, we provide an example of why?
Some time ago TRM were contacted by their booking agents wanting one week accommodation for one person in a studio – usually $115/night. Similar to any week long booking we suggested to them that the studios are suitable for overnight bookings but too small for a week long occupation, so we lowered the room rate to $100/night and – as business was quiet that week – and moved the single guest into a larger adjoining one bedroom unit.
The unit – see images on right – was fully self contained and provided a double queen and a single bed in the large separate bedroom and another day bed in the back of the living room. That is nothing unusual – TRM and other motels make similar adjustments all the time, particularly for anglers who often stay for weeks rather than days.
Next time we checked on the unit for servicing we were surprised to find all beds had been used plus two dogs were camped in the unit. The adjoining units complained about excessive noise throughout the night, etc. So we visited the WINZ office to complain. We suggested that if anyone else or another Government Department had booked and paid for a unit for one guest, and three or four turned up then naturally we expect to be reimbursed.
As soon as they realised we wanted to register a complaint they refused to listen and I was ordered to leave and escorted out by their security guards. That was when we introduced our ‘policy’ in the interests of other ‘normal’ inmates. What a surprise…
Since then we have had other unfortunate experiences with prospective WINZ guests which confirm our decision and reinforce TRM’s ban. We understand that many other motels have also banned WINZ “clients” for similar reasons. We have since heard some horror stories of guests referred from WINZ abusing their accommodation and thefts of furnishings, TV’s, etc. plus complaints about unruly behaviour from other guests in other motels. We sympathise with them.
TRM cannot afford the risk of upsetting other typical well behaved guests. It is unfortunate that we cannot support a Government policy to protect vulnerable kids and families but we cannot afford to house them at the expense of spoiling the enjoyment of other longer term guests. OK?
Other evidence is self explanatory from over a year ago – we have deliberately not named the Auckland motels:
Government spends over $8 million on four motels across NZ to ease homeless crisis
Four motels have been bought by the Government to temporarily house the homeless – and it’s looking at buying two more.
National has been putting people up in motels – and even buying some – as it struggles with the number of people living on the streets, in cars and in garages.
Nearly $8.5 million has been spent buying the four motels, one each in Auckland, Hastings, Gisborne and Napier….
$34 million is being spent on emergency accommodation, providing bedrooms for people for up to three months at a time.
‘The homeless aren’t great for business’: Auckland moteliers unhappy about providing housing
March 3 2017
Auckland’s motels and boarding houses are becoming an increasingly frequent refuge for people with nowhere to live.
Homeless people can be placed in such accommodation temporarily with their booking paid for by Work and Income’s emergency housing special needs grant.
But not everyone is happy with the arrangement.
The manager of one south Auckland motel, who asked not to be named, says homeless guests aren’t great for business.
“They’re not good for us. They steal our stuff and break our stuff.
“They cause damage to the property and never care for the property.
“Not all of them are bad. I would estimate about 40 per cent.”
No emergency grant recipients are currently staying at the manager’s motel.
He said the property most commonly stolen by homeless guests is small items such as pillows and pillow cases.
The motel requires a bond from guests but it’s sometimes a smaller amount than the value of the stolen property, he says.
“We’ve had televisions stolen three or four times.
“We tell Work and Income and they say ‘sorry we can’t do anything about it’.”…
xxx says some of the homeless people who have stayed at the motel have caused damage.
Last year one of them burned their bed as well as the carpet in the room…. etc.
‘ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS EXPLORED’
…… “In Auckland, there’s usually about 280 emergency housing grants each week and while not all will be placed in motels, it does give an idea of the number of placements we require.
“We’re talking to moteliers regarding vacant rooms they may have and the possibility to pre-book them so we have extra places available.
“If people are aware that where they’re staying won’t be available during these periods, or a motelier knows they’ll need rooms freed up to accommodate bookings, we want them to get in contact so we can help put alternative plans in place.”
The emergency grant is for seven days at a time.
Once that period has ended, recipients need to reapply to receive it for another week.
The ministry said most clients don’t need to repay the money.
However, clients may have their initial application declined or be asked to pay back 25 per cent of the grant in some circumstances.
The amount paid by Work and Income depends on a person’s situation and the type of accommodation they’re going into.
The ministry has been approached for comment on how much it’s spent on emergency accommodation costs in Auckland in the past six months as well as on its policy when homeless guests are accused of theft from a motel or boarding house.
GRANT COST DOUBLES
Ministry of Social Development figures show almost 4000 emergency housing special needs grants worth $4,065,970 were made to people in Auckland from October 1 to December 31 last year (2016).
That compares to 2200 grants worth $1.9m going to people in Auckland from July 1 to September 30 last year. (2015)
‘CHALLENGING BEHAVIOUR’ IS CONCERNING
Ministry of Social Development national commissioner Kay Read says she’s aware some motel operators have complained about the behaviour of people who are receiving accommodation assistance from Work and Income.
“This is a concern for us as we don’t want the behaviour of a few to mean others in need, including families, are denied help….
It sometimes deals with “challenging behaviour” from very vulnerable people, she says.
“We do not vet them before addressing their immediate need for accommodation, however we do advise people of their responsibility to abide by the rules of stay set by their accommodation provider and the consequences of not doing so.
The housing crisis has popped up somewhere unexpected – on TripAdvisor, the popular travel review website.
Its users are complaining about motels the Government is filling with the homeless.
“Home away from home for WINZ clients,” one person wrote.
“Full to overflowing with poor, desperate WINZ clients… We also didn’t pay good money to be living amongst them.”
Another described one motel as a “horrible place”, with tenants smoking P and “music played until 7am”.
“AVOID AT ALL COSTS,” yet another wrote.
“The manager/owner told us that he could charge anything for those people from WINZ.”