Coronavirus: How struggling whanau are getting by during the level 4 rāhui

While whānau adjust to life in our mirumiru, or bubble, the COVID-19 rāhui brings fresh challenges for some of our most vulnerable. 

Not-for-profit organisation Lifewise assists with emergency placements for tamariki and supports the homeless, and as an essential service they're continuing to operate during the level 4 rāhui.

Lifewise practise and development manager Zoe Truell says maintaining contact with their whanau is the number one priority for tamariki in foster care.

"We've made sure that they're able to contact their whanau, have their contact visits via videos, Skype or something like that and their caregivers are providing really good support," says Truell.

During the lockdown, Oranga Tamariki have said it will avoid moving children and young people unless there are exceptional circumstances that require immediate action.  Lifewise staff are in contact with whanau all the time. They're providing that support via videolink, and surprisingly well so far.

"We are expecting whanau to become more stressed. It's stressful for everybody this situation," says Truell.

"We're working with whanau that have numerous big stresses in their lives. Those stresses don't go away with a lockdown, they just increase, so whether that's financial pressure, whether it's relationship issues, whether it's difficulty with parenting, lack of food, whatever it is all of that becomes a bit of a hothouse cooker."

The issues for our homeless in Tāmaki Makaurau are complex, with their entire world being turned upside down.

"The streets are empty, there's nobody about. Shops are closed, their services are closed, they can't hustle for money, they can't go and buy takeaways. It's pretty frightening out there, it's a whole new world and I think it's about as hard as it can get right now for people," she adds.

Having initially housed 52 rough sleepers in the three days before the March 26 lockdown, Lifewise has moved on to supporting the people that are in the motels now, because they need a lot of support.

"We get them a phone, a SIM card and top ups so that we can contact them and be in touch, and they can be in touch for who they need to be in touch. We get them food, supplies, if they need that. There are some that have been on benefit, and they're able to leave their motel rooms just like the rest of us and be able go out to the supermarket and the dairy and get stuff.

"We're finding that some people aren't on the benefit already," Truell explains.

Long-term homeless finding refuge

One positive that has come from the COVID-19 rāhui has been seeing long-term homeless coming into the system after many years on their own.

"We've got people who have been on the streets 30 years now saying, 'Yep, we want to come inside.' It's yet to be seen how that goes, but having an opportunity for people to be supported, for them to feel safe and to give us a bit of time to try and sort out long term housing, I'm feeling really hopefully we can get a lot of people into long term housing."

Lifewise staff have also been educating people about what self-isolation is and explaining to them what a lockdown means.

"Some people have come in, they've just got the clothes that they're in, so we're trying to figure out in this situation, how do we get people a change of clothes? How do we get them washing facilities for some of the places they're in? It's a big variety of things people need."

The Hui