4 Mar 2015

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust - David Steemson

From New Zealand Society, 3:40 pm on 4 March 2015

Monte Cecilia Ali and children Suega and Makasini
Monte Cecilia resident Ali with her son Suega and daughter Makasini. The other three children are at school and her husband is at work.

“We must remain focussed on getting families out of really terrible living situations.”

– David Zussman Executive, Monte Cecilia Housing Trust

One of Auckland’s biggest emergency housing suppliers is facing challenges to its own future. The Monte Cecilia Housing Trust says it depends on outside help for much of its income. But costs are outstripping funding. Each year Monte Cecilia helps about seven hundred desperate families, and provides short-term shelter to only about twelve of them at one time.

The day I visit, one family had shifted out after living there since last September, but Monte Cecilia Social Worker Maxine Pairama says many families move on to Housing New Zealand places within a few days.

Thirty-year-old Ali and her family have lived at Monte Cecilia for five weeks. She’s hoping to get a four-bedroom Housing New Zealand home very soon, somewhere near her husband’s scaffolding job.

Ali has five children and another one on the way. She says private landlords won’t take on such a large family. The couple and their kids had to live in one bedroom at a relative’s house which was stressful.

There are twelve little flats at Monte Cecilia like the one Ali and her family now have – each divided into three compartments. Shared toilets and showers are down the hall, there’s a big communal kitchen and dining room furnished with twelve tables, and twelve numbered and padlocked fridges.

Monte Cecilia Social Worker Maxine Pairama CEO David Zussman
Maxine Pairama and David Zussman and refrigerators

Monte Cecilia Trust Executive, David Zussman says the emergency care facility is expensive to run, but he wants to upgrade it to make each flat self-contained. That’ll reduce the need for 24-hour staffing.    

The trust also has 26-houses sited away from its Mangere campus for longer term accommodation, with more to be built. But all this means more money. Monte Cecilia gets financial help from Lotteries, the Ministry of Social Development and the ASB Community Trust. But David Zussman’s life is a constant application process for more funds. He says they’re just not keeping pace with costs. He thinks Monte Cecilia needs to be self-sustaining.