Tetraplegic woman living in van wins fight

A tetraplegic woman who's been living in a van for six weeks has today been offered a Housing New Zealand property after her case was made public. 

Auckland woman Tracey Penney was hit by a car and paralysed as a toddler. She shares the van with her partner and four-year-old daughter Wikitoria, and has been on the Housing New Zealand waiting list for more than a year. 

There is just a mattress on the floor of the vehicle, but Ms Penney says "it's better than having absolutely no roof over your head".  

Ms Penney has an open wound on her backside that won't heal and she has to drain her bladder through a tube into whatever container is available. She often gets infections and the overheated van doesn't help. 

Ms Penney was in emergency motel accommodation, but says the Ministry of Social Development planned to move her to a backpackers because she wasn't looking hard enough for disability-friendly private accommodation.

But she says there wasn't any available, and that's when she moved into the van.

The process was wearing her down, but she says "for Wikitoria's sake, I choose not to let her see that so I try and stay strong. She becomes my strength." 

Her local MP Carmel Sepuloni went in to bat for her, saying the family's living conditions "are like third world developing country conditions".

"No New Zealander could look at this and think it is acceptable."

Ms Sepuloni says claims Housing New Zealand offered a modified house in the area to a family with no disabilities while Ms Penney was homeless.

The Ministry of Social Development says this afternoon it placed Ms Penney in temporary accommodation at a South Auckland motor inn, and has offered her a permanent property. 

It says demand for rentals is high and there are very few modified properties that suit people with Ms Penney's disabilities.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: