'I will not walk away', Curran tells rally

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran speaks at a rally in Dunedin in support of the homeless. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Dunedin South MP Clare Curran speaks at a rally in Dunedin in support of the homeless. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Dunedin South MP Clare Curran vowed not to ''walk away'' from her homeless protest in an emotional rally in the Octagon yesterday.

About 40 people attended the rally, held beside the tent in which Ms Curran has camped since Sunday to protest against the treatment of two homeless mothers.

Ms Curran said the plight of Amy Stuart and Kylie Taggart prompted her to leave the comfort of her home.

''When there's little kids involved, I can't stand by and do nothing.''

Ms Curran said Work and Income suggested to Miss Stuart yesterday that she could go to the Dunedin night shelter. That was not appropriate for a woman with a 3-year-old child, she said.

Her stand was also for other homeless people - her office was dealing with about a dozen cases.

''I can't give up; I will not walk away; I won't let you down,'' a tearful Ms Curran said.

She said the Ministry of Social Development's treatment of the women, including publicly blaming them and making them pay back up to $1000 a week for motel stays, made her ''blood boil''.

The ministry has suggested the women behaved badly at motels, which is disputed.

Yesterday, the ministry said it had been ''straight and truthful'', and again criticised the women. MSD regional commissioner Sue Rissman said ''yet another motel'' was refusing to house one of the women after ''events overnight''.

She did not detail the problem, and Ms Curran said it was denied.

Ms Rissman suggested the women ''reach out'' to family and friends for shelter.

''There comes a time where accommodation providers simply will not accept certain people in their properties due to concerns about their behaviour or actions.

''I fear we have now reached that point in this case,'' Ms Rissman's statement said.

The women had not met their obligations, Ms Rissman said, and as a consequence the motel costs were ''repayable''.

They were both on the state housing waiting list.

''We will continue to work to find these clients more stable, sustainable places to call home. It's what their children deserve.''

The ministry said there were 1392 state housing units in Dunedin, of which 25 were vacant. Of those, 16 needed repairs or decontamination.

The Otago Daily Times asked Social Development Minister Anne Tolley for comment, but her office transferred the questions to Social Housing Minister Amy Adams, whose office refused to respond.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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