Rotorua motels under pressure for taking in the city’s homeless
Rotorua motels are now taking in the city’s homeless. Credits: Newshub;
Rotorua motels which have catered to tourists from around the world are now taking in the city’s homeless, as well.
Shelley Hobson-Powell says she has been assaulted by guests at her motel. A long list of illegal goods, including a homemade bong, a weapon and synthetics have been discovered in the rooms, as well as a number of damages.
“We’ve seen it first hand over the past couple of weeks… travellers don’t feel safe in that [environment] and will take themselves out of that motel,” she told Newshub.
The town that prides itself on adventure tourism is now under pressure from the growing demand put on motels taking in the homeless.
“It takes away bed nights,” Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button told Newshub.
“Rotorua has limited bed nights. We can feel it, and other tourist operators can feel it.”
Homelessness is a growing issue in Rotorua, but there isn’t enough accommodation.
Of the 648 Housing New Zealand properties, 97 percent of them are occupied. Another 900 private houses are unavailable to families as they have been converted into AirBnBs.
Rotorua gave out 1800 emergency housing grants in the first three months of this year, compared to 200 just nine months ago.
This means more children are calling a one-bedroom motel room home.
“This is home at the moment. There’s not a lot we can do but wait,” say parents Jennifer Harn and Daniel Wells. The couple have two young girls, Emma and Sydney.
The family are waiting in their fifth motel. They have stayed at their current one for six months – without any hope of finding a long-term home.
“No go. Next to nothing, pretty much impossible,” says Harn.
“I don’t think it’s right that people are living in motels until they can get rental accommodation. AirBnB’s [have] taken a big slice out of our rental market,” says Rotorua Mayor, Steve Chadwick.
The Government added a Housing First programme just last year to help.
Homeless advocate Tiny Deane, who has already opened a night shelter for the homeless in the CBD, is trying to do his bit. With the help of investors, he is buying up land and planning to build three houses by the end of the year.
“I’d love to be able to give them to mums or children or people in motels. To take the stress off motels and stress off tourism,” Deane told Newshub.
Already, tourists are leaving less-than-flattering comments about the town.
A “party town”, troubled by “loud vehicles, with music blaring at 11:30pm,” says one TripAdvisor review.
“Add alcohol and or drugs, and it’s a place you do not want your family in.”
Tourists Newshub spoke to said personal safety could influence their decision on where to stay.
Like many places, Rotorua is struggling with homelessness, one of New Zealand’s biggest social problems.
But what is at stake affects the whole community.
“The reputation that Rotorua’s going to uphold is possibly not the most positive one for the discerning traveller,” says Hobson-Powell.
That reputation among travellers has been crucial to Rotorua – for as long as anyone in the hospitality and tourism industries can remember.
TRM (Tongariro River Motel) management policy is not to accept any “guests” from WINZ. We prefer our own inmates, usually well known to us and totally reliable.
Making bank on emergency housing
most-used motels for emergency housing special needs grants
|Provider name||Number of grants||Amount granted|
|Auckland Metro||Syed Family Limited||Emergency Services Limited||1818||$3,112,043.90|
|Knightsbridge Motor Lodge||Knightsbridge Motor Lodge||1840||$2,136,690|
|Budget Travellers Inn||Shri Vishnu Holdings Limited||1252||$1,396,464|
|Waikato||Sails Motor Inn Hamilton Limited||Sails Motor Inn Hamilton Limited||645||$866,448.36|
|Cedar Lodge Motel||Fanfeiya International Limited||409||$698,131.39|
|Aaron Court Motor Inn Hamilton||Solid Hospitality Ltd||282||$343,170|
|Wellington||Dupont Motel||Ark Hotels Limited||564||$731,762.84|
|Bellevue Hotel||Management Support Services Limited||288||$190,787.92|
|Motel 22||Motel 22||202||$260,331|
|Canterbury||Ferry Motel||Ferry Motel and Travel Ltd||460||$250,267.04|
|AAA Northlands Motel||K H L Corporation Ltd||350||$215,990|
|Workotel Limited||Workotel Limited||245||$77,904.24|
|Southern||Leviathan Hotel Company Ltd||Leviathan Hotel Co Ltd||209||$123,715|
|McGaw Queenstown Family Trust||McGaw Queenstown Family Trust||84||$27,350|
|Ambleonin Limited||Ambleonin Limited||74||$50,525|
Figures relate to grants between october 1, 2016 and june 30, 2018
Source: Ministry of Social Development Official Information Act response
Tongariro River Motel report from October 2018:
Tongariro River Motel confirms it is not available for homeless – if you believe what some critics post on facebook? – as the owners are anti-iwi and too mean?. If that is what they imagine, that is fine with us…
TRM cannot afford
Record amounts being spent on ‘Band-Aid solution’ motels for homeless
- Credits: Newshub. Michael Morrah
Figures obtained by Newshub show the Government has been forced to increase the number of motel units it’s renting to house the homeless.
In the six months to June, $17 million was spent on emergency housing grants to get people into motels. On top of that, close to $44 million has gone on providing temporary accommodation. That includes signing contracts to use almost 600 additional motel units around the country.
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But demand is continuing to increase, and the Government faces a problem, with motel supply in Auckland described as “largely exhausted” and other areas in a similar position.
Rebecca Kereopa’s story is a tale of transient living – no home, no job and an abusive and complex past.
“I’ve been without a home for the past six months since I moved out of Manurewa,” she says.
She’s been in hotels since then.
“This will be my sixth one coming up. It’s not good.”
That’s six months in rotating motel units, and Ms Kereopa says it’s nothing like having a home.
“You’re only in a room, not in a space, and I think it feels like it traumatises people.”
But record amounts – tens of millions of dollars – are being forked out on motels.
“They’re not our preferred options, but quite frankly they’re delivering whānau and individuals a place to stay and stabilise their lives, which they otherwise wouldn’t have,” says Scott Gallacher, deputy chief executive of housing for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).
The Government planned to rent 500 motel units this winter, but in the six months to June – so not including the coldest months – 592 motel units have been contracted around the country.
Auckland is most in demand, with 260 motel units under Government contracts, followed by the East Coast with 111 motel units. Then it’s the Bay of Plenty, the Waikato and Canterbury, where 39 units are being rented.
“We are spending more than ever before on special needs grants and motels – that’s how bad it is,” Housing Minister Phil Twyford says.
Compounding the crisis, confidential planning documents obtained by Newshub say motel supply in Auckland, Napier, Hastings, Wellington and Tauranga is “close to saturation”.
Ricardo Menendez-March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator, says “emergency and transitional housing does not address the issue of homelessness”, labelling it a “Band-Aid solution”.
MSD says it does have other options, including using seasonal worker accommodation, units on land at marae and homes in new developments.
“We are busting a gut to make sure we respond fully to all of that demand as much as we can,” Mr Gallacher says.
Ms Kereopa says it takes too long to get a permanent home, and it’s frustrating when more than 1000 state houses sit empty awaiting repairs.
“Just give the people the homes. I’ve seen a lot out there that are empty – what are they doing with them?”
With no immediate solution, for now Ms Kereopa is resigned to a life in limbo.
Newshub.Similar report from Whagarei…
A community support group says rules need to be relaxed to make way for permanent housing solutions.
Families in emergency accommodation have been cast out to make way for people paying for motels. In Whangarei, motels were cleared out to make way for fans of Kiwi band Six60, in town for a concert.
“About six months ago we received a huge booking, and we are completely and utterly booked out,” said Casablanca Motel manager Tel Hudson. “Every room has gone and the booking pre-dated our emergency housing contract.
“We’ve got no problem with the people staying here, there’s just no room for them.”
Ricky Houghton from the He korowai Trust says the situation is unfair for everyone involved, and motels are unsuitable living environments for big families.
“You have these big families going into motel rooms, and it compromises the other residents living in there – kids running down hallways or cramped up into rooms. It’s just unworkable.”
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He says there needs to be a step in the emergency accommodation system before hotels.
“This emergency accommodation, there needs to be a step before that… more priority on keeping people in their houses.”
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Mr Houghton says many people in houses are also in dire situations, paying 85 percent of their income on rent.
One homeless family in Whangarei turfed out of their motel room faced sleeping in a car before temporary lodgings were arranged.
The Ministry of Social Development insisted it knew of just one person impacted by the Six60 gig and had made other arrangements for them.
“Ultimately, we want to ensure everyone in need of safe, secure housing has somewhere to stay in the immediate term,” said acting regional director Kiriwai Jones.
Mr Houghton says the Resource Management Act needs to be broader to avoid dangerous makeshifts, and allow more permanent, affordable housing.
“Otherwise people make these very dangerous add-ons for houses – cords running out from the house, with no toilet or appropriate shower facilities.”
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.
Labour says the cost of those motels is double the latest available valuation, although the Government has disputed that.
Opposition MP Carmel Sepuloni says hundreds of state houses have been sold in those areas – and asked Social Housing Minister Amy Adams why that is the case in Parliament today.
“The needs of transitional housing developments are quite different,” Ms Adams said.
$34 million is being spent on emergency accommodation, providing bedrooms for people for up to three months at a time.
The Government also revealed today it planned to spend $36 million over the next four years insulating over 10,000 Housing New Zealand homes.