Tireless welfare advocate and Northland community hero Ricky Houghton has died aged 62 after losing his battle with cancer.
He died Monday morning at his West Auckland home surrounded by whānau.
Houghton has worked hard to improve the lives of those who need it most, with his housing advocacy mahi winning him the New Zealand Community Hero Award in 2018.
As head of He Korowai Trust in Kaitaia, Houghton has helped thousands of Northlanders find safe and affordable housing and employment.
He called it “the last resort” where people in crisis went. He saved hundreds of homes in the Far North from the sale of mortgage creditors
His own upbringing was not easy, growing up in state care, he suffered horrific abuse and was subjected to hours of shock treatment. It is because of this that he said he fought so hard for others to be free from adversity and pain.
Over the past 10 years, Houghton has established a unique housing estate in Kaitaia, saving over 50 former Auckland state houses to create a village for those who lived there to own.
The waiting list to live there quickly grew, but it was not a free-for-all. Alcohol and drugs were not permitted on the premises, and residents had to take a homeownership course.
As the development grew, it realized the potential for a business and entrepreneurial opportunity and it became a training site for young trades people, where they would learn on the job while renovating homes.
Her advocacy work did not stop there. With the housing crisis in full swing, Houghton mortgaged his own family home in west Auckland to buy the former Kaitaia Hotel which he turned into an emergency shelter.
The 33 rooms quickly filled up. It is now a one-stop-shop for those who need a roof over their head and access to holistic budgeting, mental health and addictions support.
He continued his work as his health deteriorated.
He will stay at marae Te Piringatahi o te Maungaarongo until Wednesday when he will return home to marae Te Paatu in Pamapuria, Kaitaia.