Over nine years, Tamara, her partner and daughter lived in two different rental properties. When the landlord sold up, they began the search for new accommodation but, because they had a dog, couldn’t find housing anywhere. In the end, Tamara’s partner moved into a caravan in a paddock – no water, no toilet – with the dog, while Tamara and her daughter moved into emergency housing at a motel.
Living in the motel was crap. While it was good to have a roof over our heads, there were some crazy people there and the motel owner would react to situations by getting angry and making rules. One time he got mad about people who weren’t staying there coming in and using the washing machine. He got so angry about it that it took me to the point where I was afraid to use it.
Being at the motel was probably more difficult for my daughter. Kids need their friends and because we’d gone from a small town to this motel and there were rules, it meant she could only have friends over for short periods of time. Certainly, sleepovers and things like that were not allowed.
Without housing, your life is on hold
For Tamara, another difficult aspect of temporary housing is that you are not surrounded by your own possessions.
We slowly adjusted to the people at the motel and the rules we had to live by, but it sucks not having your own stuff and not being in your own home and not being able to just do your own thing. It makes you feel like your whole life is on hold.
Visionwest Community Housing
Tamara had been in emergency housing for seven months when someone suggested she went to see the team at Visionwest Community Housing Canterbury. From there, things moved fast for Tamara – almost too fast.
Meeting people at Visionwest for the first time was great but interviews are not easy for me. They make me feel like I’m doing a test and I hate to fail. I was so scared that I would stuff it up. The people were really nice though. One lady could see my anxiety and, when we got time to talk, she said to me, ‘I can see your anxious and nervous… it’s alright.’ That showed me that the people at Visionwest really cared for me.
After that, things happened quickly for Tamara and her daughter. Within two days, she was moving into a new house.
Looking back on the emergency housing experience
Now that Tamara and her daughter are housed in their Visionwest home, Tamara can look back on her time in emergency housing.
Going into emergency housing was not what I thought it would be. I was thinking it would be a week or so and then we’d have a house, so we packed for a week’s stay. Then the months rolled on and we were still at the motel.
At first, I spent lots of time looking for a long-term place to live but every time I went to see a rental there were heaps of people there. Lots of them obviously employed. But me… well, I guess it’s the stereotype I fit into. I know, to landlords, I look like a beneficiary and, eventually, I just lost my confidence.
When asked if she felt discriminated against, Tamara tells of going to rental properties and being ignored. While the property managers would walk up to others and initiate conversation, Tamara felt they wouldn’t even make eye contact with her. In the end, it prompted her to give up and wait.
I even got my doctor to write to Kāinga Ora about my mental health and the needs of my daughter hoping it would help push me up the housing list, but nothing happened.
For Tamara, one of the best things about being in a Visionwest home, even though it is only transitional, is the support she receives.
I feel like Rachel supports me. When I need food, she helps me access a parcel. She understands my situation and takes me to appointments when I can’t get there on my own. She talks to me like a friend not a client.
I know that coming from a very abusive childhood has affected me. I was raised to believe I wasn’t worthy and, although I’ve tried to rise above that, I’m still affected by it. Even in small things like asking for food. There are times when I’ll have nothing in the cupboards but feel like I don’t deserve help; I feel I’m taking food away from others.
Being a little more settled with her accommodation means Tamara can begin to set some goals. She’s looking forward to doing a women’s self-help course to help get her confidence back. In the past she completed a customer service course for hairdressing and would like to go back to train as a colour therapist. She has also thought about studying criminology.
The thing is, I left school as soon as I was 15 and so I’m not sure what my options are. What I do know is that by taking small steps I can, over a period of time, travel a long way and achieve some of the goals I have for me and my daughter.
Tamara, like so many people who have experienced struggles with finding accommodation appreciates how difficult and unstable life is when a person doesn’t have a place to call home. For now, she’s making the best of life that she can and is looking forward to the future.
There was a time when I really thought I’d be in the motel forever. I can’t wait for a permanent home, but this is great as a steppingstone.
Find out more about Visionwest Community Housing.