2 Aug 2017

Children told to leave state house after mother's death

7:06 am on 2 August 2017

A social housing agency has been forced to change its mind and apologise after telling five children to leave their home just weeks after their mother's death.

Mabel Pe with her five children, Marian (17), Samuel (14), Richelle (12), Daniel (21), Michelle (25).

Mabel Pe with her five children, Marian (17), Samuel (14), Richelle (12), Daniel (21), Michelle (25). Photo: Jane Kloser

Mabel Pe, a Burmese refugee, died in the arms of her children on 10 July after a short illness.

On Monday the five children - aged 12 to 25 - were given three weeks to leave the home they have lived in for more than 10 years.

But their landlord, Tamaki Housing, yesterday changed its mind after RNZ questioned the decision. However, it said it could not guarantee they could stay in the house long-term.

Marian Han, 17, opened the door of the Glen Innes family home on Monday to be handed a letter from two Tamaki Housing representatives saying it wanted the house back.

It was the first contact with the agency since her mother's death.

"It was just a bit of a shock that the first time they'd come to talk to us since it happened is to tell us that we're being kicked out," she said.

The representatives refused her invitation to come into the house to discuss the matter and left minutes later, Marian said.

"It was very clear that they didn't care what was going on the family."

To make it worse the letter was addressed to her mother, Mabel.

It said, "Thank you for advising us of the death of Mrs Mabel Pe. We understand this is a difficult time for you and please accept our condolences for your loss."

It went on to say that as the tenancy agreement was with Ms Pe, it had now ended and Tamaki Housing needed to take back posession of the property in three weeks.

Marian Han and Nikki Mandow with the letter from Tamaki Housing.

Marian Han and Nikki Mandow with the letter from Tamaki Housing. Photo: Supplied.

Family friend Nikki Mandow described the treatment as appalling.

"These are children that have watched their mum die suddenly in their arms in her bedroom and then suddenly the state is saying you've got to clear out in three weeks and the house needs to be tidy.

"How are they expecting to clear out her room, sort out the rest of the house, find themselves somewhere to live? They've just lost their mum," Ms Mandow said.

Mabel Pe and her husband came to New Zealand as Burmese refugees with three small children about 16 years ago.

The two youngest children were born in Auckland.

The couple later separated but the children still see their father who rents a room in a nearby house.

Mabel Pe and Marian Han.

Mabel Pe and Marian Han. Photo: Jane Kloser

Marian cried as she spoke of her mother sometimes working three jobs to support the family.

"She was hardworking, she was so independent and stubborn as well. We'd offer to help and she'd just say, 'No I'll do it all myself'... She loved us no matter what," she said.

Still a teenager herself, Marian had just started a job as an early childcare worker. She had also taken on the role of caring for her 12 and 14-year-old siblings as they grieved for their mother.

Tamaki Housing yesterday changed its mind, apologised and said the children could stay in the house for now. However, it could not say for how long they would be able to stay.

General manager Neil Porteous said it was up to the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) to decide whether the children were eligible to keep the house.

"At the first opportunity we'll meet the family and give them an assurance that nothing will be happening until we've been through the appropriate processes at MSD and they've received the appropriate support from us and MSD to determine what their needs are."

Mr Porteous said Tamaki Housing was reviewing its processes after sending the letter to Mabel Pe and said he would meet with the family next week.

The letter sent by Tamaki Housing to the children of Mabel Pe.

The letter sent by Tamaki Housing to the children of Mabel Pe. Photo: Supplied

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