Visionwest Community Housing addresses the issue of homeless in New Zealand by providing safe, warm, and quality, rental accommodation for low-income families who cannot access Government-supplied accommodation and cannot afford a private rental. At the foundation of this work is the belief that all people have a right to have a warm and safe place to live, and that society works better when whānau have a permanent and stable place to call home.
Visionwest Waka Whakakitenga, a community trust initiative from Glen Eden Baptist Church, began their journey to provide stable housing for whānau in West Auckland in 2003. Kharece House had room for five women and ten children and was the only emergency housing available in the area.
The immediate challenge then became the provision of longer-term housing for these women and their tamariki to move to once their need for emergency housing came to an end. By 2006, Visionwest were purchasing and renovating local properties to provide long term supportive housing.
This has grown to include a significant number of both Transitional Housing complexes and Long-Term Housing properties. In the 2020-2021 year, Visionwest Community Housing provided 270 families with a place to live and worked with 95 others through the Sustaining Tenancies programme.
Over the years, milestones have included the establishing of Visionwest Community Housing Canterbury. Following the Canterbury Earthquakes, Rangiora Baptist Church wanted to do something tangible to help those who were left without a home. Working in conjunction with Visionwest, there are now over 60 Transitional Housing properties and a growing number of Long-Term rental properties throughout Canterbury.
Visionwest Community Housing Canterbury was also awarded the opportunity to run the Sustaining Tenancies pilot. This scheme, helping whānau to maintain a tenancy and live successfully in community, is now running throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.
In 2016, Visionwest Community Housing became one of the five foundation members of the Housing First collective which has now housed over 920 households throughout Auckland and provides a unified voice to the needs faced by those experiencing homelessness.
The story of Visionwest Community Housing and Glen Eden Baptist Church’s mission to address homelessness in West Auckland is best told through the story of Walter, one of the service’s client whānau.
Walter was born a stone’s throw away from the Visionwest house he now lives in, the journey from his boyhood home to this one has not been easy, but it has brought a true life-transformation.
“It’s been a long journey for me,” says Walter. Sitting on the deck of his Visionwest house, he points across the road, “I used to live just over there. I played in these streets and on these sections but that was a long time ago.”
The boy who lived over the road went on to experience some tough times. “I started sniffing when I was seven and a half years old and spent most my younger life on drugs or alcohol.”
Walter talks of coming to a time in his life when he became sick and tired of his lifestyle. “Having gone through rehab a couple of times, I’d experienced short periods of sobriety and I liked it. Those were good times. Looking at people around me I saw their lives were going nowhere and then I realised, my life was just like theirs.” That’s when Walter made a decision.
“I decided the way I was living was a waste and that, if I was serious about turning my life around, I needed to move somewhere safe, away from bad influences, and back to my roots. I decided I wanted to move back out West.”
Walter came to Visionwest because he’d met many people who spoke highly about the support they received there. He was welcomed by staff at the Whānau Centre who introduced him to a member of Visionwest’s Community Housing team. Walter says it was the first time anyone ever listened seriously to his story and his desire to create a new life for himself. Soon he was placed in a Visionwest house.
“Visionwest helped me get real with myself. I’m an everyday person now. I have a home and a car.
If I need help, I go to Visionwest and there is always someone who will listen. I’m not alone anymore.”
Walter’s life has been transformed to the point where even he is amazed at who he’s become. His long-term goal is simple, it’s to be the best grandfather he can be to prevent his mokopuna walking down the road he did.
Find out more: Visionwest Community Housing