A strong partnership between the Argent Motor Lodge in Hamilton and LinkPeople was forged over the COVID-19 lockdown, with the lodge taking on eight residents through Ahikāroa, a Waikato-wide service for people accessing mental health and addiction services who need housing support.

Argent Motor Lodge had not previously been registered as an emergency housing provider, but after a call from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Design (HUD), owner Graeme Hunt decided to give it a go.

Graeme said that while he initially had some reservations about taking on tangata wha ora, none of his concerns were realised. With medical professionals from the nearby hospital also staying at the lodge, Graeme’s main misgiving was that tangata whai ora might break lockdown rules by having parties or rowdy visitors dropping in at all hours of the night and day, but this was not the case. “We were surprised at how well it went,” Graeme said, adding that he was particularly impressed with LinkPeople’s vetting of people going into the accommodation.
The partnership was so successful, in fact, that Graeme said the lodge would be open to taking on more tangata whai ora in the future, should the need arise.

Of the eight people placed at Argent, one came through the DHB’s crisis team and one was a rough sleeper, with the remaining six all from residential care.
They had each been assessed by the Ahikāroa team as ready to take the next step in their housing journey, with the lodge an ideal springboard over lockdown.
And freeing up much-needed residential spaces meant that six tangata whai ora could progress from the Henry Rongomai Bennett Centre (HRBC) and into residential care.

Ahikāroa housing team lead Rachael Kirner paid tribute to Graeme and manager Leah Lindsay’s constant compassion and patience, which made tangata whai ora feel respected and valued.
Graeme and Leah said the residents became like family over the difficult COVID-19 lockdown, and it was hard to see them go.
They were both keen to find out how their former guests were doing, and reported that one person had even popped back to thank them after he moved out – testament to the care and respect he felt at the lodge.

Thanks to this temporary accommodation, tangata whai ora were able to move from residential care, to the motel, and on into their own home. Which is something we want for everyone in Aotearoa.

Team leader Rachael Kirner (left), with Argent Motor Lodge manager Leah Lindsay and owner Graeme Hunt.

The Argent Motor Lodge was a place for tangata whai ora to regroup before the next stage of their housing journey.