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Te Kotuku Ki Te Rangi Trust – Tāmaki Makaurau

Finalist

posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

Since 1992, west Auckland mental health provider Te Kotuku Ki Te Rangi Trust has watched the mental health system evolve from de-institutionalisation to options of supported, independent living services for tangata whaiora.

During this time the trust moved from service provision in-group homes to providing residential services and community packages of care. It also became interested in becoming a social housing provider, believing that an integral aspect of recovery and wellness is in housing that people can afford and be proud of.

It was the new social housing component within its extensive portfolio of rehabilitation, accommodation and care packages that earned the trust a Whānau Ora Award in 2008.

Te Kotuku Ki Te Rangi Trust started its Social Housing Project with the support of Housing New Zealand’s ‘Housing Initiatives Fund’.

Within 12 months the trust had bought six two-bedroom units and was providing affordable long-term tenancies to tangata whaiora and low-income families challenged by a shortage of adequate housing in west Auckland.

The trust’s achievement was a reflection of its ability to develop sound support alliances and its commitment to involving tangata whaiora in planning wrap-around integrated services to maximise positive outcomes.

The social housing initiative offers tangata whaiora an alternative to shoddy boarding houses, inappropriate whānau environments, cripplingly expensive flats and isolated lifestyles that invariably led them straight back into the trust’s care.

Trust chief executive Josie Smith picked up the social housing initiative when she began working at Te Kotuku Ki Te Rangi. 

‘When I arrived, the initiative was moving through Housing New Zealand,’ she said.

‘We didn’t know what houses we were going to buy at that time; we just knew there was a Housing Innovation Fund that we were interested in.  The Trust’s then Chief Executive Michelle Cavanagh thankfully opened those doors positively for us and we took advantage of it.

‘We initially agreed to buy 50 houses over 10 years but the rules continued to change so we bought six in the first year and then we were not able to buy any more.’   

Josie said prospective tenants are referred by clinical teams.

‘When we know they’re well and about to exit services we’ll flag it to them that we have a vacancy. We then take them through a full tenancy interview and everything relating to the tenancy. We encourage the use of budgeters, or direct payments from WINZ, and we’ve never had a problem with tenants paying their rent. They know they have to pay, so they pay.  We also expect them to treat the house as their home, and they do.’

Josie is clearly proud of the ongoing success of the social housing project and what has been achieved.

‘Our service manager Natalia Kaihau did a project around gardening.  We started by giving them vegetables from one of our other sites and this encouraged them to change their diets.  They used to come down to the gardens she set up. She would teach them how to dig, how to use a spade – it was starting from scratch. Now they grow their own gardens.

’Our tenants stay well.  Whether it’s the house, whether it’s our follow up service, I don’t know – although our care stops at a certain point because they no longer need us.’

Josie said it was the tangata whaiora themselves who were most proud of winning a Whānau Ora Award.  She believes that what the trust delivers and how it delivers it is pure whānau ora. 

’Whānau ora should start with mental health because it’s with these individuals – our tangata whaiora – that you do everything from housing, budgeting, nutrition, clinical and non-clinical support, understanding and drawing on your community networks,’ she said.

‘We have navigators here who can navigate around anything to get whatever our tangata whaiora need – including the support that needs to be wrapped around the whānau.’

In 2011 the trust added a six-bed short-term respite service for tangata whaiora to is portfolio.

It also applied to the Social Housing Unit for funding support to purchase additional community housing and existing housing complexes to offer more options to clients facing multiple barriers in accessing and sustaining appropriate housing.

Te Kotuku Ki Te Rangi was established in 1992 to respond to increasingly community-based mental health solutions. It was one of the first Māori residential mental health providers.

For more information, go to:  http://www.tekotuku.co.nz