Two elderly Russian immigrants, primarily made homeless by the Christchurch earthquakes, say they have been forced out of a friend’s garage by Housing New Zealand.
Ironically they are on a wait list for accommodation with the same agency that has just removed the roof from over their heads – Housing New Zealand, but there are 71 other applications ahead of theirs.
They’re now living in a car in socially progressive New Zealand, recently deemed to be in the top four countries in Social Progress Index for access to water and sanitation, and tolerance and inclusion of minority groups.
Mr and Mrs Zvyagin live on disability benefits and their Russian pension, they have a combined income of about $350 a week.
According to the Marlborough Express
Nikolai, 67, and Irina, 68, Zvyagin were on Friday forced from the garage where they shared a single camp stretcher for weeks while they waited for state housing.
They are two of 272 Cantabrians on Housing New Zealand’s (HNZ) priority A waiting list – a number that has grown by 100 people since December…
The Zvyagins had been living in Oxana Pyntya’s garage, until HNZ threatened to terminate Pyntya’s contract unless the Zvyagins were gone by Friday.
They intended on sleeping in their tiny car, or pitching a tent in a city park near a toilet, but luckily had one last night with a roof over their heads.
When The Press highlighted their plight yesterday, the couple were inundated with offers for accommodation and support.
But wary the temporary solution would jeopardise their place on the state housing waiting list, they gracefully declined help until they could find a permanent home…”
Offered to repair empty home next door
Mr Zvyagin told the paper if they wanted to stay in the garage they’d be taken off the emergency waiting list. Presumably when they refused they were made to leave.
“Just two days ago HNZ suggested us to keep living in the garage in return for taking us off their emergency waiting list.”
Nikolai Zvyagin was so desperate he wrote to HNZ asking to move into an empty state house next door, and offered to carry out the repair work himself.
However, Housing New Zealand regional manager southern Symon Leggett said the units had “significant structural damage” and were unsafe.
Leggett said the Zvyagins had “high priority” for housing, and had spoken to them about other options.” more here
Guess the other options included garages in the area?
It is disgusting that three years after the earthquake people are still waiting for emergency accommodation, whatever happened to all those portable dwellings the government was going to provide before the money went on cardboard cathedrals? You may be forgiven for thinking that this situation is far worse than third world: this couple doesn’t even have a tent or a place to sleep.
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“I don’t know if I am allowed to do this. We have lived through all the earthquakes and seen the affects on the people who are living in cars, under piles of rubbish, etc, three or more families to a small unit. It is shocking and hard not to be able to help. We need financial help ourselves. We moved into a place the night before the first earthquake, my husband was driving at the time and was stopped by divine intervention just before a building landed on the road in front of him, which would have crushed him had he been further along the road. We have been looked after and kept safe during the whole time from divine help.
We have lived in our car for a few weeks and had to move several times due to damaged properties and my health. My husband has just lost his job and we are about to be out of another home and in the car again because we have had to juggle money so much with the rising rents, etc. It has been a matter of do we pay the rent and bills, rent and food, or food and bills, it is an impossible situation, with people telling us to get budgeting advice. We do our best.
We are only one of many managing in Christchurch like this now, I wish the government would help the little people here and look at the real issues. I want Christchurch rebuilt, but you need to provide for the people first. How can letting the people here starve and live on the streets help with a proper rebuild? The people are the city. I am asking if I am allowed to put this message begging for financial help at least for my husband and myself urgently if this message is allowed to be posted. I don’t want to live in a car again, please help us. We are just one family of many living it hard in Christchurch.” source
July 2014: Immigrants Caught In Cold Poverty Trap