A homeless pregnant woman has been forced to sleep in her car after the authorities reportedly refused to give her accommodation.
Actress and community worker Ngapaki Moetara vented about the incident on social media, where she tearfully recounted the incident and highlighted the social worker’s ‘inhumane treatment’.
Ms Moetara works for an organisation in Gisborne that supports families in New Zealand and deeply sympathised with the homeless pregnant woman.
According to her, the social worker from the Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) office in Gisborne ‘very unkindly’ claimed that she had to send the woman away.
Community worker Ngapaki Moetara vented about the incident on social media, where she tearfully recounted the incident and highlighted the social worker’s ‘inhumane treatment’ of the pregnant woman
WINZ is an agency of the New Zealand government which provides a variety of services for the unemployed, as well as in giving financial assistance to students and providing emergency accommodation for the homeless.
According to Ms Moetara, she was ‘sad and frustrated’ at the way the social worker treated the young Māori mother seeking shelter.
‘She started to get upset, the worker just said “Don’t get upset. There’s no need to be upset.” She’s got nowhere to go! Her benefit is $226 a week. And that’s just normal for her,’ Ms Moetara said, according to the NZ Herald.
‘I want a voice to go out on behalf of her and others. I know there’s a housing crisis, I know there’s poverty and homelessness, but at the very least, the way that our whanau [family] get spoken to needs to change,’ Ms Moetara said.
‘It’s cold out there and all the worker said to her after her second time going in was not to get upset because she started to cry when she was told that they were just going to send her back up the coast where she came from,’ Ms Moetara recalled.
Ms Moetara also revealed that there was a room available the night the woman came by, on July 11, but it still wasn’t given to her.
According to the NZ Herald, the Ministry of Social Development responded to Ms Moetara’s plea and apologised for the unfortunate incident that unfolded.
East Coast Regional Director for the Ministry of Social Development Naomi Whitewood also told The Herald that they will continue to work hard to provide the services they promised to those in need.
‘We don’t want anyone to leave our offices feeling like Ngapaki did and it’s extremely important whānau [family] feel they’re being treated in the right way. Our people are working hard to do our best for our whānau and I’m here to support us all in being able to achieve that’.
‘We’re working hard to ensure our clients get consistently good service and most of the time we get it right. Where we don’t get it right, we are committed to putting it right’.
The Ministry of Social Development responded to the incident and apologised, adding that, ‘We also want you to know that we do not feel or believe that whānau should have to sleep in their cars particularly through winter’
Ms Moetara, however, emphasised on the need for social workers to treat people with more compassion and understanding.
‘The way she was spoken to I don’t think we really realise just how inhumane it can be,’ She said. ‘But the way she was spoken to was a real example of how disconnected we’ve become’.
Ms Whitewood is now directly cooperating with Ms Moetara in coming up with better solutions to ensure that this will not happen again.
Ms Whitewhood also urged people to come forward and contact WINZ because ‘no one should have to sleep in their car and no one in need of housing should go unsupported this winter’.
Ms Moetara’s video on social media received many responses from thousands of locals in New Zealand, with many expressing sympathy and gratitude to Ms Moetara and the Ministry of Social Development’s response.
The office of the Ministry of Social Development (pictured) responded to Ms Moetara’s plea, saying that they will directly cooperate with her to come up with better solutions