Bobby Mano’s case is highly unusual but it’s raw and very real. He’s 33 and he’s on a jobseekers allowance of $355 a week. He’s actively looking for work in Auckland and Christchurch, but so far he’s had no luck.
Bobby rents a three bedroom home in Mt Roskill for $350 a week. That leaves him just $5 a week to live on, then he pays his power at $5 a week. He survives on food parcels from poverty action groups. They were all there when I met him today at his home.
He also has three children in his care. They are nephews and nieces. He has taken them off other family members because he says they have been in abusive homes. He is in the process of dealing with CYFs, trying to get full custody of them. He thinks it will happen, but so far it’s been eight weeks and nothing has happened.
He says he doesn’t qualify for a state house and can’t get any social housing, so he’s renting privately. He says the house he has rented is a “dive”. The landlord will demolish it in the New Year, as he’s building a bigger house out the back. It was rented it to him in an ‘as is, where is’.
Bobby is sleeping in the lounge with his nieces and nephews, because he doesn’t like the state of the bedrooms. The toilet seat is broken, the oven doesn’t work. Bobby says the landlord won’t pay for anything to be fixed – though he has asked.
He’s started painting the inside of it to make it nicer for the kids. There is a port-a-loo pushed up against the house – for the builders out the back. He says the smell of it comes into the house.
Bobby says he needs cheaper accommodation in order to survive, but he simply doesn’t qualify for anything. His landlord has other homes and has offered him other places, but they are all more expensive than the $350 he is paying.
Bobby is bringing up three kids on $5 a week. This is genuine poverty and the shortage of affordable housing only magnifies his plight. If he gets full custody of the kids, yes, he’ll get more money, but he’ll still be struggling.
He’s a sign writer and a welder, and he’s looking for a job. He’s a decent man and he’s doing the right thing by his wider family. But he’s poor and desperate.
This is the underclass that politicians talk about, but they do it from the comfort of the Parliamentary leather seat. I am making it my job to meet them, to give them a voice. But nothing seems to be changing for these people. Not yet.
This Government has said it wants to get out of the state house business over time and help other agencies build what’s called social housing. Paula Bennett told me yesterday we need another 4,000 of these houses. But we need them now. People like Bobby can’t wait.
Without decent, affordable housing, these people simply become poorer and more desperate. Something, surely, has to change.
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Stop Press: Bobby Mano has just been given a $100.00 food grant, non-recovarable, and given $100.00 towards his power bill recoverable from his $5.00 per week at $3.00 per week.