Lynette Haines doesn’t fit the stereotype of a typical homeless person.
Groomed, smart and articulate and at 71 still working.
This woman with needs herself is a very part-time tutor of literacy skills, she’s helping others with needs.
Then last Friday Lyn had to hitch up her dinky wee caravan - home for the last couple of years - couple it to her sad and tired 1999 Mitsubishi RVR and mosey eastwards out of town.
Well, just to the city boundary, Papamoa and yet another holiday park. That’s Lyn’s life, hand to mouth, caravan park to caravan park, uncertainty to uncertainty. She’s pretty much destitute. “Sometimes I just go home to my bubble of a caravan and cry. But I live in hope.”
By the time many read her story, Lynette will have been sent packing.
“The holiday season is kicking in and I’m being kicked out. The holiday park needs my space.” It’s a business decision – the park can make a lot more money out of my site than I can afford.
“I had been paying $154 a week, including power and water.” That left her about $254 from her pension for living expenses – food, hair, teeth and car. “I even managed to save a wee bit.” But there was no room at the inn for Lyn this Christmas.
So she loaded up her ‘tin can’ – a modest 3.3 square metre caravan – and headed as far east as she could trust her old car to take her, to another caravan park, to more money problems and more desperation.
Ten nights at $38 a night – that will effectively gut her pension that week. But needs must.
“I feel terrible having to ask. I should be able to live in this beautiful city without having to go through all this at my age.” But she will ask, because she has to – she’s been to WINZ for an accommodation grant to cover her ‘outrageous’ costs at the Papamoa holiday park, plus a hardship grant.
Then what? “Well I am sorted ‘til the end of the month. And then… I don’t know. Nothing after that.”
Perhaps bunking short term with a friend or holed up in her car. “That’s probably what’s going to happen.”
Lyn Haines could be someone’s lovely aged aunt, living in a car, it’s unimaginable. “It’s also a reality,” says Lyn.
While Lyn’s talking to The Weekend Sun, she points out some other ‘realities’ - homeless people emerge from their makeshift camp under the trees at the top of Dive Crescent. “And I know damn well from what I see and what people tell that this problem is endemic in Tauranga, it’s outrageous.”
She has also encountered a NIMBY attitude. “Not in my backyard people who say we don’t want them living or subsisting in our neighbourhood. Get them off the street, get rid of them, just do what you have to do with them, but we don’t want to know.”
The Weekend Sun has been following Lyn’s story for about three years. Little has changed. She is still on the priority list with Housing New Zealand but Lyn says they still don’t have anything suitable for a single, mature woman.
What about rentals? “I’m not overly fussing or demanding, but the rentals on the market are either unsuitable or too expensive - $350, $380, $420 or $430 for a one bedroomed place.” The math doesn’t work for Lyn.
“Single people of all ages who have to live on low incomes have no choice when it comes to income.
“Being excluded from rental properties because of their inflated prices means we are left with no alternatives but to sleep in cars, in parks, in tents and on beaches.
“There are pockets of people – and you know who you are – making a fortune from hardship being imposed on the vulnerable. Some aren’t willing to step up and offer a home rental at reduced prices in order to get people off the street. They call homeless everything under the sun without recognising they are part of the problem and hold the solution – cut rentals!”
Lyn doesn’t want to move out of Tauranga – she’s been here 12 years, had a good job until the recession hit, she belongs to a church, sings in a choir, has a part time job and a few dear friends. “Moving towns would only be moving my problem.”
On Christmas day she was planning to climb from her neat-as-a-pin caravan in Papamoa and drop by the St Peters Church in the City free community dinner. “Did it last year and nothing has changed, despite my best efforts.
“We the homeless are real people so give us a thought as you prepare for your Christmas holiday, shopping for gifts, food and booze.
“Stop and give them a hello, perhaps share your Christmas dinner, offer them a bed, get to know them, find out the cause of their problems and stop being judgmental. Now happy Christmas and go and eat your cake.”