Housing crisis leaving people with disabilities to shower on the floor

Laura James
Source: 1News

Disabled Kiwis are feeling exhausted and defeated about their living situations, with a lack of housing that caters to their needs.

A study by a community housing collective has revealed one in five disabled people are unhappy with their homes.

Researchers say the issues raised are not new.

"We started this journey five years ago and the comments made by parents then are the same as parents and disabled people are saying now and that's disturbing, five years and nothing's changed," said Disability Connect's Colleen Brown, who co-authored the report.

"I detected in the interviews when I was writing it up a real element of despair, a lack of power, a lack of control and a lack of being able to influence the policy makers."

"The ongoing lack of any political will or intention to address these issues is just appalling," said Alastair Russell from Mangere East Family Services

"We have seen families with disabled people living in garages we have seen families who have waited over eight years in sub-standard Housing New Zealand houses and it's only because media attention has been focussed on those situations that they've found the motivation to address those long term needs".

Disability Minister Carmel Sepuloni agrees that these concerns are not new, and says the issue is very important to her.

Researchers have made a list of recommendations in the report, and they've sent a copy not only to the Government, but to the United Nations.

The main one is that there should be one Government agency that takes responsibility for planning the way forward.

"At the moment Kainga Ora would not have a clue how many people out there with disabilities need accommodation," Brown said.

They've also suggested that 100 per cent of public housing newbuilds are built to meet universal design standards.

Right now, Kainga Ora has a goal of just 15 per cent.

"Where's the social housing?" Brown said. "You know 15 per cent is insulting, we know 25 per cent have some form of disability, we have an aging population, so therefore it’s not rocket science"

"Poverty and disability are side by side and we need to address that".

Two disabled Kiwis 1 NEWS spoke to, thought being able to buy their own homes would make it easier.

Peter Williams and Sally Barkman, both in wheelchairs, say they struggled to find one storey houses and it's been a battle to make them accessible.

After five years in their homes, they're both still waiting on modifications.

For those five years, Williams has been showering on the floor.

"I transfer onto the floor, shuffle into the shower, and shower with half my body outside the shower", he said, demonstrating the challenging manoeuvre.

"I'm looking to create wet area bathroom, something I can get my wheelchair in and be able to close the door without having to get onto the floor."

Barkman has had her bathroom modified, with some ACC funding, but she's only now having her kitchen redone so she can safely reach the bench.

"I was reaching up to do everything, lifting hot things off the stove, down onto my lap, which obviously is a danger."

"The system and the Government have ignored the needs of the disabled sector for a very, very long time," said Russell.

"It's an ongoing crisis and it needs to be addressed," he said.

Over 700 people participated in the research which consisted of surveys pre- and post-Covid lockdown, two focus groups and 14 in-depth interviews.