Barry and Florence* had retired and were living in a one-bedroom unit in a retirement village when family circumstances led five of their grandchildren to come and live with them. It was overcrowded and stressful, but they couldn’t find alternative housing and they didn’t qualify for a state house.
People can end up struggling to find suitable accommodation for all sorts of reasons. For Barry and Florence, it was when they were left with no choice but to take on the guardianship of their grandchildren. It turned their lives around and left them desperate to find a suitable place to live. One day, while dropping the youngest grandchild at kindergarten, one of the teachers said to Florence, “Why don’t you phone my mother who works for Visionwest Housing.” That’s when everything changed.
We heard about the Visionwest housing complex at Luke St and came down for a look. It was amazing. What was even more amazing is that they told us there was a house available. We wanted to move in as soon as possible but, with Covid around, things took a bit longer. Six weeks later, though, we moved in.”
Barry and Florence now live in a Visionwest home with their five mokopuna (grandchildren), aged 4, 6, 9, 11, and 13. Their situation is far from unique. As more grandparents are having to take on the responsibility of raising grandchildren, many are being placed under pressure for housing and other factors essential to living.
Barry and Florence’s Housing Challenge
Finding a house was the first challenge for us. We were in the retirement village but, with the kids joining us, they wanted us to move. It wasn’t easy to find a place though. We’re both seniors and are on a dual pensioner benefit. We also get a benefit for the grandies but that’s not as much as we need. At that time, we didn’t qualify for a Kāinga Ora place and, if we went to a private rental, it would take every dollar of our income just to pay the rent. Then there is the pressure related to having to pay for all the things kids need. Food for five kids is expensive. And we’ve had lots of medical stuff, dental bills. All the kids wear glasses, that was a big challenge. Oh, and one has had to get braces. We’re not young anymore and to do all of this means lots of lots of running around. We believe the good Lord walks besides us, but it’s still been tough, especially with Covid as well.
Barry and Florence admit it’s been like starting all over again but are committed to doing the very best for their grandchildren. That’s why a safe and secure home is so important. They recognise that, to provide their mokopuna with the best opportunities for their futures, they need to begin with ensuring they have a stable home life.
We are so, so, so, grateful for the support we’ve received from Visionwest. Karen and the Visionwest Housing team are awesome. So are the schools. We get a lot of support from the kids’ schools.
For Barry and Florence, one of the best things about living in a Visionwest housing complex is the various programmes that are run for the tenants. They have enjoyed being part of the community where tenants support one another and share knowledge.
Everyone looks out for each other here and that’s great. It feels so safe for the kids, and it teaches them how to live in a community with others. We also appreciate the weekly food parcels from the Visionwest Pātaka Kai. We couldn’t get along without those. In return we try to do things to help around the place. That makes it feel more like home too.
Barry and Florence talked about where they get their energy from.
This responsibility has been handed to us. We didn’t ask for it, but it is ours and so we just need to get stuck in and do it. We’ve found the best thing is for one person to focus on one thing. So, for us, I [Florence] do all the administration and health-related stuff while Barry looks after all the finances. It’s pretty stressful but we learned to deal with stress through out work lives. We both worked for New Zealand Post, so we knew how to deal with stress in the workplace. When we retired, we thought all that was behind us but that’s okay. Coming from our cultural background, when the grandies came to us, they became our life. It’s in our culture to be like that.
When talking about Visionwest, Barry and Florence talk about the extra support they receive.
Visionwest is awesome because they bring people together in this small community where we can get to know each other and encourage each other. The grandies are getting to know other kids which means they learn to share and to be patient and things like that. Coming here is like heaven to us and we cannot thank Visionwest enough. The space we have is a real godsend. We went from having five kids in a one-bedroom unit and moved into a four-bedroom house. It’s just amazing. It’s so much better for the mokos too. In the old place, people were always complaining about the kids being there. But now they have room to run around. That means they are more controllable because they have playground and good local facilities. It means they don’t get bored.
Transitional Housing – a step to permanent Housing
The home Barry and Florence and their grandchildren are in is transitional housing. Up until now they have not been able to find a permanent place to live. Even with five mokopuna to care for, they have not qualified for a Kāinga Ora house and there is no way they can afford private rental housing. But that’s about to change. Just recently, Florence discovered that they now have enough points to qualify for a Kāinga Ora house. The entire family is excited – a permanent house means the children can settle into permanent schools and make friendships that will last. They can join sports clubs and get involved in the community. For Barry and Florence, it means they will have the stability required to enable them to achieve the goals they have for the futures of their mokopunas. Find out more about Visionwest Community Housing.
* Meeting the needs of people who come to Visionwest for help with compassion, dignity, and manaakitanga is our top priority. We understand it is a great privilege when someone shares the story of their personal journey with us, so always seek their permission before sharing their story with others.