Meet Jacqui Ferrel, General Manager, Tauranga Community Housing Trust

Published: May 18, 2020

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  • News
  • Transitional housing

With a portfolio of 200 community houses in Whakatane and Tauranga, and a team of 16 staff, the addition of 19 houses in Opal Drive, Papamoa, saw the Trust’s first foray into the world of transitional housing eight months ago.  They now manage 39 transitional houses in Tauranga.

Jacqui Ferrel is new in her role at TCHT with three months under the desk and it is obvious that she is loving the job. 

She’s also relatively new to the Bay of Plenty.  But she’s not new to the world of working with people who need assistance to achieve the basic necessities in life.  Eleven years working at MSD in the Central Region team in a variety of frontline leadership roles means that she has a strong understanding of social service delivery and a passion for achieving outcomes that lead to independence. 

TCHT has the contract to provide services to the Opal Drive ‘village’. Named Kāinga Atawhai, which means a place of warmth, love, security, caring, kindness and nurturing.  It is a village consisting of 19 two- and three-bedroom homes plus a dedicated house for the onsite manager. 

While there have been evitable challenges, overall Jacqui says the village is going well.

“Most tenants really appreciate and make the most of the opportunity to work with us to secure long-term housing.”

The Transitional Housing model is for a period of around 12 weeks, placement into long-term housing with then ongoing support of a further 12 weeks once the person has moved into that permanent housing.  However, 12 weeks to secure long term housing is not the norm in Tauranga.

“Unfortunately, it can be a much longer period because some tenants cannot secure a private rental, and there is a shortage of public housing available.  Contributing factors such as low income, high debt, negative tenancy history and discrimination all inhibit people achieving a private rental home.  Another trend adding to the demand issue is the applications received from people outside of the Bay of Plenty who are just looking for a home”.  

She says the shortage of affordable and public housing means people are more often putting down that they are prepared to live in any postcode on the Social Housing Register application.

“Affordable housing is in such a crisis state all over the country, people are willing to move anywhere, and you can completely understand the desperation of families wanting stability.  Some don’t wait for a house. They pack their car and come to the Bay looking for a better life.  We would like to house and help them all – but obviously we can’t.”

TCHT has a lot of support in place for their tenants.

“All our tenants are provided with a TCHT Tenancy Manager and a Housing Services Worker.   The Tenancy Manager supports the new tenants with signup and exit and manages all property related matters.  The Housing Services Worker’s role is to empower and support the tenant to achieve long term housing.  This includes everything from budgeting, property viewing/interviewing techniques, access to health and social services and even helping them build up furniture and household goods in preparation for their next home.” 

She says housing is one of those cornerstones of stability. Without housing people are unstable in other parts of their lives. 

“Transitional housing and our support gives them temporary stability and helps to sort out their barriers so they can then take the step into private tenancies.” 

The work the staff does daily is complex but Jacqui knows they are making a real difference by achieving positive things in their lives that will lead to independence. 

Since Kāinga Atawhai opened in December 2017, a total of 35 households (35 adults and 67 children) have lived, or are living, in the complex. 

So far, twelve of those households (34%) have moved into permanent housing. The majority of these have moved into a private rental. 

“When you consider that most of these families were living in cars, sheds, portacoms or motel units, this is amazing.  This is why I come to work each day, and I know that is also true of my team.” 

Jacqui is also very keen to also measure outcomes other than housing such as employment, education, training, health and wellbeing outcomes.  TCHT has just started capturing this data and reports that since July; two tenants have achieved full-time employment, three tenants achieved part-time (20+ hours) employment, and four have enrolled in tertiary study. 

“It’s important to recognise what our support achieves as we won’t be able to achieve stable housing for all in this housing climate, and all of these outcomes reduce dependency long term”. 

There have been challenges and Jacqui says that TCHT has learned a great deal in the past nine months. 

“As with any community of residents there are at times disturbances or issues that arise but these have been manageable and relatively minor. Some tenants have told us that they feel exposed and highly visible because they live in a ‘Transitional Housing Village’.  This means the general community already knows that they have fallen on tough times by nature of where they reside.   Most of them are trying to improve their circumstances and just getting on with usual life routines like work, school, family life, and want the privacy to do that.  On the positive side the publicity has brought a lot of goodwill, support and friendly neighbour activity”. 

Jacqui says tenants are genuinely appreciative of the transitional housing and the extra support they are given to focus on securing long term housing.

“They seem to enjoy the facilities and have made friendships and new support networks.  They share the same goals around house hunting and this brings them together, and they of course attend workshops dedicated to budgeting, housing hunting etc”

There are also a number of children in the complex which naturally brings people together. 

“Most of the feedback we receive from residents that have transitioned into permanent housing is that their transitional house gave them an opportunity to focus on getting more financially stable and the tips and tools to help them secure and sustain a tenancy.”