Karina Murray and her 17-month-old daughter Alaya. Photo: Kate Russell.

‘Overwhelming’ wait for a home

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Nelson mum of two Karina Murray sleeps on a fold-out couch in her mum’s lounge every night.

Right next to her, her mum sleeps in a chair, while her two children and Karina’s younger sister occupy the bedrooms of the small Stoke unit.

“I’ve been living here for nearly two years,” says the 24-year-old mum to 17-month-old Alaya and three-month-old Lynette.

It’s not a situation Karina chooses to be in.

She has been on the public housing waitlist for those two years, but applications to that list in the West Coast Tasman region have grown by more than 200 since the beginning of the year.

“I call Work and Income just about every day just to find out how much longer it’s going to take. They know my situation – I keep explaining it to them.”

When Lynette was born, she was told they would be a higher priority on the waitlist.

“But still, nothing. I know there’s a housing crisis here, but the wait time is just beyond ridiculous.”

She says she feels as if she is being “pushed aside”.

“I did enquire about going into emergency accommodation, but they basically told me they didn’t want to put me in there.”

She says their living situation is “overwhelming” for everybody involved.

“My mum has days where she just gets really frustrated with it. She has told me that this house doesn’t feel like her own anymore. She’s given up her bedroom for us.

“It’s really crowded and cramped – there’s just clutter everywhere. We’re always on top of each other. I didn’t think we would be here for this long.”

She and her partner, who sometimes lives with them too, moved here from Auckland for a “fresh start” when she was pregnant with Alaya.

“Up there we couldn’t afford food once our rent was paid. It was really bad.”

Karina has also been looking at private rentals, but the majority are “way out” of her budget.

“I’ve applied for lots, but I don’t ever hear anything back. When I go to house viewings it’s sad to see how many families are in actual need of a house.”

Karina says her dog is also part of the family as he helps her with anxiety and panic attacks.

“He can sense them, and he’ll calm me down quite quickly. I can’t give him up, he has to be there.”

The demand for public housing doesn’t look to be easing, with 714 applicants currently on the housing register in the West Coast Tasman region, compared with 633 in the June quarter.

There are now 1,469 public houses managed by Kāinga Ora and community housing providers in the region – an increase by 11 since last quarter.

Karina and her family are being supported by Glenys Tideman, who is a whanau worker for Family Start.

“The situation in Nelson is just dire, there is just so much of this happening.”

Glenys says she knows of a family of four living in a one-bedroom house, and situations like theirs and Karina’s can put huge pressure on family relationships.

“People are just giving up hope – they don’t think they will ever find anything.”