Wellington mum shares 'scary' struggle to find affordable housing

A Wellington mum says she relies on help from the Salvation Army because her benefit doesn't cover the basics. 

For single mother-of-two Gabrielle Wickliffe the biggest challenge was finding stable, affordable housing. 

Her struggle began in a boarding house that she described as 'scary'.

"There would be fights and there was a stabbing in one of the boarding homes."

Then she moved to a flat, but the lease ran out, leaving her and her kids homeless again. 

Wickcliffe said she then stayed in a motel filled with other families like herself. But the stress from all the moving took a toll on her. 

"I was so physically done I got really, really sick." 

Wickcliffe's story comes off the back of the Salvation Army's State of the Nation report, which measures the progress of people's wellbeing in New Zealand.

The report revealed despite political promises of a social transformation, not much has changed for New Zealand's poorest citizens.

The lack of social housing is one of the reasons the Salvation Army says poverty is stubborn, especially for what they call "the deep poor".

"About 174,000 children are in deepest poverty in our nation, they could fill Eden Park three-and-a-half times," Salvation Army report co-author Jonji Tanielu told Newshub.

That number isn't dropping despite the promises made at the last election.

When Labour came to power, it spent $5.5 billion on its "families" package and the Prime Minister believes it's working.

"From the State of the Nation report from the Salvation Army, I think you can see their acknowledgement that we have made a number of changes that are starting to make a difference," Jacinda Ardern told Newshub.

But Tanielu was unconvinced the families package was effective.

We are uncertain it's truly as transformational as promised," he said.

Use of emergency food and housing grants is still rising.

"This indicates to us that benefit levels are just not enough," Tanielu said.

Labour has ramped up state housing builds but isn't promising benefits will go up in this year's budget.