A meeting was called today by the Auckland Council’s Community Development and Safety Committee to talk about homelessness and get the message out to agencies and government: we will not see an end to homelessness without nationwide collaboration and funding.
The Auckland City Mission conducted a count in 2014. It revealed that 147 people were sleeping rough within a 3km radius of the Sky Tower- up 16 per cent from 68 people the previous year.
These figures have encouraged the Auckland Council, Auckland City Mission and Lifewise to talk directly to rough sleepers, their families and the general public.
Councillor Cathy Casey, Chair of the Community Development and Safety Committee says the council’s focus on homelessness over the last two years has produced some powerful insights and uncovered alarming trends.
“For me, the most powerful insight is that the notion of ‘choice’ is so complex for those who sleep rough – that while there are many triggers on the journey to sleeping rough, the ‘choice’ to do so was more often than not a result of having no other options.”
Casey adds that the housing shortage in Auckland is compounding the issue and for that reason the council has allocated funds from its homeless programme budget towards emergency housing initiatives.
“In the council’s Long Term Plan 2015-2025 we’ve allocated $360,000 for homeless initiatives each year over the next two years broken down into $250,000 to support the provision of emergency housing and $110,000 to support other initiatives. A further $110,000 will go towards homeless initiatives in the third year.
“In this financial year we’ve already allocated just over $115,000 to Community Housing Aotearoa to help address the growing demand for emergency housing across the region, and to improve the coordination of existing services. And I’m pleased that one of the community initiative outcomes we’re exploring is increased amenity services for homeless people such as lockers and showers.
“We have limited ratepayer funds, but we're using it wisely to increase opportunities for homeless Aucklanders – obviously to bring them out of homelessness is a key focus. We also acknowledge the Government’s funding boost of $2 million to help battle Auckland’s emergency housing crisis, announced in September last year.
“The consistent message from the many experienced speakers at today’s committee meeting is that just making housing available is not enough for our vulnerable rough sleepers to make the transition out of homelessness. The Government needs to ensure there are adequate wrap around services to support people to stay there.“
Councillor Casey says that the council and its partners have opened some crucial doors on understanding homelessness, but that we’ve only scratched the surface.
“Homelessness is now a huge issue in Auckland, with the numbers of people sleeping rough rising. We believe that with the right resources and effort it could be solved, but without them it will get worse.
”Importantly, the issue is not unique to our city. The time has arrived for a national strategy led by central government in partnership with the homeless sector and local councils, and a national target to end homelessness in New Zealand.”