A home is a place of hope

Tiana Kiro, left, and Beyonce Kahui, two young māmā who recently travelled to Wellington with E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services to share their thoughts on alcohol harm and the need for alcohol reform. Photo: Zoe Hawke, E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services.

BY JACQUELINE PAUL, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, Ngāti Tūwharetoa – He Kāinga Whakamana Tangata Whakamana Taiao (BBHTC) researcher

A home is a place of hope.
A home is a place of love.
A home is a place of nurture.
A home is a place of safety.

And yet, we live in a country where many rangatahi and their tamariki have no place to call home. So, it can be hard to imagine home as a place of hope when you have no home.

Our rangatahi research team recently released two research reports on rangatahi and housing. The first report, Youth homelessness in Tāmaki Makaurau in collaboration with Manaaki Rangatahi Youth Homelessness Collective, drew attention to youth homelessness with a particular focus on the growing number of rangatahi and tamariki experiencing the most severe housing deprivation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The second report, A critical review of Rangatahi Māori and housing policy, highlights significant concerns about housing policy and the lack of support for many rangatahi Māori in desperate need of warm, safe, and secure housing. The report calls for investment into rangatahi Māori-led housing research and better housing policy for rangatahi Māori.

Our research journey has only just begun, but the alarming issues already identified have created a space to think about aspects of homelessness that we’ve not yet captured in our work.

I have been thinking about the notions of homelessness, houselessness and hopelessness.

I have been trying to grasp these concepts and how they interact by understanding their meaning to our communities. How do we account for these notions and how they affect one’s emotions and spiritual well-being?

Homelessness and Houselessness

So what does this mean for rangatahi and their tamariki growing up in emergency and transitional housing in Aotearoa New Zealand? A motel is not a home. It’s not even a house, but more of a shelter, and the spaces are inappropriate for rangatahi and their tamariki. Their voices are often left out of the conversations surrounding housing solutions. Many are living in…

A place of isolation.
A place of instability.
A place of insecurity.
A place of harm.

Let’s shed light on the reality for many across Aotearoa who have nowhere to go. Half of the people experiencing homelessness in Aotearoa are under 25. Yet, we don’t understand the challenges of rangatahi experiencing homelessness, many of whom are parents or expecting babies.

I have seen some of my whānau struggle with accessing emergency housing and living in motels that were unsuitable for their tamariki, and I know others who moved home to our papakainga in the far north.

It is also important to reinforce that the conditions of homelessness and houselessness are different for whanau Māori. Pa Moana Jackson has spoken about the notions of houselessness for Māori because they can’t be homeless on their lands. Aotearoa is their home, and they are connected to these lands. Matua Ricky Houghton also spoke of connections for whānau Māori and the umbilical ties to the lands where home is a foundation that can anchor and connect us.

I reached out to Zoe Hawke, Chief Executive of E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services, to get more insight on what it’s like for rangatahi engaging with their services and sharing the realities of not having a safe and secure home.

“Many young parents we currently work with live in temporary and precarious situations – couch surfing, living in cars, or in overcrowded homes. Young parents are constantly trying to figure out what the next best housing option is for themselves, their tamariki, and/or expected babies.

“Housing is a significant and immediate need, with our social workers spending large amounts of time attempting to source emergency and transitional housing for hapū māmā, young parents, and their tamariki. The existing housing supply does not meet several key needs for the population served by E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services and in some cases systemically discriminates against young parents.”

Zoe Hawke, Chief Executive, E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services. Photo: E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services.

It is crucial to raise the concern surrounding discrimination in housing, coupled with the lack of protection for tenants living in emergency and transitional housing. The Residential Tenancies Act has exempted emergency and transitional accommodations since 2020.

Zoe also mentioned seriously limited options in emergency housing which allow both parents to be together. In some instances, hapū māmā are turned away from housing providers who refuse to take in pregnant whānau. Where do we expect them to go? These lived realities reinforce the need to provide suitable homes with good security of tenure for young whānau and their children.

“Not having a secure home was identified by mātua taiohi/hapū māmā as a major stress factor as new and expectant parents and believed that a secure, safe home would lower their stress and allow them to focus on positive parenting and a healthy hapūtanga”.

Access to safe and secure housing is critical, especially for rangatahi and their tamariki. The Human Rights Commission argues that people unable to access secure housing may end up homeless. Poor tenure insecurity can affect the sense of control a household has over its housing and erode the certainty they have about future housing circumstances.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development intends to reset and redesign the emergency housing system. The current system is failing young parents and children. There are alarming concerns that rangatahi with tamariki living in insecurity seek emergency housing special needs grants consecutively and these rangatahi are directly linked to those experiencing severe housing deprivation and high levels of housing stress.


Imagine having to move all the time, change schools, make new friends and live with the despair that things will not get better anytime soon. Hopelessness can often be associated with mental health issues, a prevalent issue in the youth community. The relationships surrounding homelessness, housing instability and mental health are well-studied internationally and paint a stark and harsh reality for many.

I recently watched an Instagram video of Mike King and have actively followed his campaigns to improve mental health support.

Mike said, “If you put your faith in the system, there is a better than evens chance that your child will die because no one is coming.”

Hearing this made me tremble, but it also reminded me of a young person who once said they would rather be homeless than seek help from the system. The lack of trust in the system is not surprising, but the system is failing rangatahi and tamariki immensely. What if it was your tamariki or mokopuna?

We fail to deeply understand the intersectionalities of who the housing crisis affects most. We need to recognise the right to a decent home for rangatahi and their tamariki. We should not accept intergenerational homelessness as the status quo in a country with a vision that ‘New Zealand is the best place in the world for children.

Everyone deserves a place to call home and a foundation for hope.

Read the research

Paul, J. (2022). A Critical Review of Rangatahi Māori and Housing Policy. Working Paper for Urban intergenerational Kāinga Innovations (UIKI) research programme. October 2022, 24pgs. Auckland: BBHTC.
Paul, J. & Ratana, M. (2022). Youth homelessness in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand. Scoping report for Manaaki Rangatahi ki Tāmaki Makaurau Youth Homelessness Collective, 56pgs. Auckland: Ngā Wai a te Tūī Māori & Indigenous Research Centre. ISBN 978-0-473-62560-3.
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Date posted: 23 November 2022