Tireless welfare advocate and Northland community hero Ricky Houghton has died aged 62 after losing his battle with cancer.
He died Monday morning in his West Auckland home surrounded by whānau.
Houghton worked hard to improve the lives of those who needed it most, with his housing advocacy mahi winning him New Zealand’s Community hero award in 2018.
At the helm of He Korowai Trust in Kaitaia, Houghton helped thousands of Northlanders into safe, affordable housing and employment.
He called it “the last resort” where people who were in crisis went. He saved hundreds of Far North homes from mortgagee sales
His own upbringing wasn’t easy, growing up in state care he suffered horrific abuse and was subject to hours of shock treatment. It was because of this he said he fought so hard for others to be free from adversity and pain.
In the last 10 years Houghton established a unique housing development in Kaitaia, rescuing more than 50 ex state homes from Auckland to create a village for those that lived there to become owners.
The waiting list to live there quickly grew, but it wasn’t a free-for-all. No alcohol and drugs were permitted on the premises and residents had to do a home ownership course.
As the development grew, he realised the potential for a trade and enterprise opportunity and it became a training site for young tradies, where they would learn on the job while they renovated the homes.
His advocacy work didn't stop there. With the housing crisis in full swing, Houghton mortgaged his own west Auckland family home to buy the old Kaitaia Hotel which he transformed into an emergency shelter.
All 33 rooms quickly filled up. It’s now a one-stop-shop for those needing a roof over their head, and accessing wrap-around support for budgeting, mental health and addictions.
He continued his work as his health deteriorated.
He will stay at Te Piringatahi o te Maungaarongo marae until Wednesday, when he will return home to Te Paatu marae in Pamapuria, Kaitaia.