Wellington shelter for homeless women opens new wing as demand rises

Source: 1News

After losing her husband to cancer, 57-year-old Margaret Mitchell ended up in transitional housing provided by the Wellington Homeless Women's Trust.

But this was after she had spent time sleeping in the back of her car. 

Mitchell told 1 NEWS the time with the trust had given her three months to get back on track. 

"Get the counselling I needed for my grief, and dentist the whole lot. That has been neglected, I also completed a computer course here."

From today, more people like Mitchell will be able to access the service. 

The trust is opening up a new wing with nine extra bedrooms, tripling their capacity from 20 women a year to 60. 

Manager Hiria Tareha said the trust got a lot of older women. 

"We've just got to give them guidance and support and reconnect them back to family."

Chairwoman Jo Cribb told 1 NEWS the trust could still fill those extra beds three or four times over.

"Many of our women have had relationship breakdowns, they've had mental health issues, they've lost jobs, and it's a very quick route to homelessness.

"Many of us will know how difficult it is to get a tenancy. Imagine trying to do this if you've got all those things working with you."

According to the 2018 Census, more than 41,000 Kiwis do not have a permanent home. 

About 3000 of those were in Wellington. 

But people working in this space say those numbers have skyrocketed during the pandemic and women are often under-represented in official figures.

They say women are more likely to fall into what's called the "hidden homeless" - by couch surfing or sleeping in cars.

"You know back in the day I could count the amount of people I saw homeless," Tareha said.

"To come in and start this job and see them on every street corner, you know it's heart wrenching."

But for Mitchell, she has plans to find a permanent home and get back into the workforce.