Working one minute – homeless the next

Donna and Pere Ross

Pere and Donna Ross didn’t know how easy it was to end up homeless in an adopted city.

Ko Titirangi te maunga, ko Ūawa te awa e rere atu ki te Moana-nui-a-kiwa, ko Te Aitanga-ā-Hauiti te iwi, me Ngāti-Porou whanui hoki. Ko Pere Ross raua ko Donna keelan-Ross o maua ingoa.

Titirangi is the mountain. Ūawa is the river that flows out to the Pacific Ocean. Te-Aitanga-ā-Hauiti is the tribe, also the wider Ngāti-Porou. Pere Ross and Donna Keelan-Ross are our names. This is our story.

Pere, a painter and decorator from Tolaga Bay, was working two jobs around the clock in Christchurch to support his wife, their daughter and their five grandchildren, despite having severe arthritis.

“I was in constant pain, but had to keep going as the father, or male figure, in my whānau.”

His day job ended at 5pm and he had an hour off until he started his night job – from 6pm until 11pm. “I was preparing earthquake-damaged properties for painting. I slept between midnight and 6am.”

But Pere lost his contract in May 2015 when he needed a hip-replacement operation and the family had to leave the house they rented for $580 a week. He says the long working hours had contributed to wearing out his hip more quickly.

The eight of them moved in his with niece, her partner and child. Eleven of them were crowded into a three-bedroom house. Pere and Donna, who has a heart condition, were sharing a room with their eleven-year-old grandson.

Living on top of each other created tensions, and they were asked to leave. Miles from their home on the East Cape, the family had few people to call on for help in Christchurch, and for the first time, found themselves homeless.

With the help of the office of Labour MP Rino Tirikatene and Work and Income, the family obtained temporary accommodation for two-and-a-half weeks in two holiday park units. In that time Pere found a two-bedroom private rental through a real estate agent for their daughter and her children in New Brighton.

“My wife and I stayed with her, until we moved into our beautiful new whare built by Accessible Properties in November last year.” The added their grandson to the tenancy and he moved with them.

The property is low-maintenance, fully fenced, a landscaped back yard – and near to shops and services. Inside, the accessible design meets the needs of people with health issues.

“Our lives are so much more secure with a roof over our heads.” Pere says he and Donna are very grateful for all the help they received.

Ka piki te ora me nga maanakitanga o te Atua kia koutou katoa.

Good health and God’s blessings to you all. – Pere and Donna Ross.

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