After living in her car for almost a year, 21-year-old Mae now has a safe and secure place to call home.
Despite having a part time job, the Māori student could not afford the high rents in her hometown of Whanganui.
Estranged from her family and with friends all leaving town to go off to university, she had no one to turn to. Previous experiences also made it very difficult for her to share houses with people she didn’t know or trust.
“The only option I had was to sleep in my car. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep for almost a year,” Mae says.
“You are always worried about people breaking into your car while you are sleeping. If I parked in a car park in the nicer, safer parts of town, residents would ring the Police who would move me on.”
Without cooking facilities, it is difficult to eat properly. Mae says she lost a lot of weight from the stress of her situation and not having a proper diet. She says showering and hygiene is also difficult when sleeping in your car.
“I got a student gym membership so I could use their showers. I would go in at 5am when no one else was around.”
Despite her difficult living arrangements, Mae enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship course in construction. She always hid her living situation but, after a while, her course coordinator became aware that she was sleeping rough.
“He was amazing and did everything he could to help me find a place to live. We came across Home in Place.”
Mae says she cried when the Home in Place team handed her the keys to her one-bedroom apartment in Whanganui. Feeling safe is the best part of living in her own home.
She says the relatively new apartment is beautiful and the complex is well looked after. It is close to work, study, and the shops. Mae has made friends with a neighbouring tenant.
“The Home in Place team are really nice. They quickly fixed some issues with the apartment when I was moving in. I know I can pick up the phone to them if I need to.”
With a safe and secure roof over her head, the future is looking brighter for Mae.
“You don’t realise how amazing it is to be able to come home and lock your door until you don’t have that option. Not having to live in my car was such a weight off my shoulders.”
“I feel so lucky and grateful to have this home. My life is amazing compared to where I was two years ago.”
“I love the construction course I am doing and hope I can get an apprenticeship in carpentry or something like that.”