Woman in Hamilton emergency housing motel raped by gang members with her children nearby, sister says

Warning: This story contains details that may disturb some readers.

The minister overseeing emergency housing says she's shocked to learn numerous women in emergency housing motels are being threatened into prostitution and drug dealing by gangs.

A Newshub investigation at the weekend has prompted multiple women to come forward, including a woman whose sister was raped by gang members while her children were in the motel unit with her.

The woman who contacted Newshub said earlier this year her sister had to be rescued from a life of intimidation in an emergency housing motel on Hamilton's Ulster Street.

"My dad got a call, my sister was in tears. She'd been raped while her children were there in the motel room with her as an intimidation technique," the woman told Newshub.

She said her sister, like 'Maggie' in Newshub's earlier story, was punished because she wouldn't work as a prostitute or sell drugs for a gang.

She said her sister didn't owe money but was preyed on because she was vulnerable.

"I was frustrated and angry. I work in this area in social housing and I thought, 'man, have I failed her?'"

Police were never called - her sister was too scared to lay a complaint.

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The woman fears some moteliers being paid to provide that emergency housing are too scared to help.

"I think they turn a blind eye as a protection technique," she said.

Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said it was "shocking" to hear the stories. She is urging anyone who feels unsafe to contact police and their Ministry of Social Development case manager.

"We need to know so we can respond to that type of behaviour and stop it. The problem is when these things are happening in the shadows, then no one is able to get on top of it and deal to the issue," Sepuloni said.

But the woman speaking to Newshub said she was "so disappointed" to hear this was a surprise to authorities.

"They don't realise how bad it is," she said. "The gangs control it. It's their space, no one else's."

The Government says it's pumping $355 million into emergency housing in the next two years and a major review is almost complete.

"Without wanting to preempt the outcome of the review, there will be changes," Sepuloni said.

Sepuloni wouldn't divulge what is going to be in that review, which will be out at Christmas. 

But one social housing approach the Government is trying in a pilot programme will be at 139 Greys Avenue in Auckland. It's currently under construction but Kāinga Ora said it will be finished by the middle of next year.

It will offer 200 rooms to people MSD deems suitable, with 24/7 support, accommodation, budgeting advice, counselling, and skills development, and most importantly a safe place to live.

Another similar complex is also planned for the Wellington suburb of Mount Cook.

Where to find help and support: 

If you have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment or assault and would like to speak to someone, you could call the HELP support service: