A little while ago I read a news article about Auckland’s boarding houses. Boarding houses are half way houses for families and individuals who have no house to live in. In a lot of cases they are very unsafe places for people to live, especially children. They are the closest thing we have in Auckland to living in a slum. Flea infested rooms, blood stained carpets, mould on the ceiling and walls. You get the idea. Not the kind of place you want to end up. But for too many of our Auckland neighbours, boarding houses are their only choice.
After reading this article written by Fairfax, I found myself glassy eyed for a little baby 18-month old girl featured. Her name was Julia. Her body was riddled with flea bites. Her face without expression. Blank, cold and sad.
In Unicef’s recent Innocenti global report card, New Zealand performed poorly on children’s wellbeing. 19.8 per cent of children in this country are living in relative income poverty. In that report Dr Prudence Stone said “Contrary to the way we’d like to think, New Zealand is evidently not the greatest place to grow up in. The more we’ve focused on New Zealand’s economic well-being, the more we’ve lost sight of our children’s.”
It is for this reason we have little beauties like baby Julia stuck in boarding houses riddled with fleas. But fortunately, there is a part of baby Julia’s story I haven’t said yet. Sometimes when you least expect it, the story can change. It did for baby Julia.
After I posted the article, one of our support navigators, Linda Paealiki from our south Auckland Emergency Housing site decided to do something. She tracked down baby Julia and her parents and got them out of the boarding house. Linda did not wait for someone else to act. She was simply moved with compassion, and her actions changed the life of a little girl born into poverty.
Baby Julia and her parents are now learning life skills with VisionWest and are well housed in our Emergency Housing. We will transition the family to their own home some time in the near future. A place without fleas, mould or blood-stained carpet. And because of this story I sleep a little easier.
But unfortunately, baby Julia is not a ‘one off’ case. Hundreds of Aucklanders find themselves in situations like this. VisionWest is a leading agency in providing supportive housing for those most in need. A donation this month helps us help children like baby Julia, and slowly but surely, New Zealand becomes a better place.