Topic: Housing

Lengthy delays for homeless still living in cars and tents

By Talisa Kupenga
  • Northland
  • Auckland
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty
  • North Island: West Coast
  • North Island: East Coast
  • Wellington
  • South Island

Te Kāea has received a document released under the Official Information Act. It's a needs-assessment form used by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to screen applicants in need of social housing.

Te Kāea wanted to understand the MSD process for placing a homeless person into a home and if the screening process prioritised those living in situations of homelessness.

The document provided is the manual assessment form used by staff when its Single Client Management System (SCMS) used to manage a social housing applicant, is unavailable.

The first question to determine social housing eligibility lists five criteria of homelessness. Despite the criteria, Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says it'll still take a long time to house the homeless.

“The system is broken it's just not working. People are going to MSD they are asking for a state house but what we know from the government's own data is that people who are turning up who have been living in cars; it's taking the government seven months to house them.”

MSD says the manual assessment form mirrors exactly the questions as they appear in the SCMS. It has five options of homelessness including living in a car, a tent, a homeless shelter, a public space or other.

“It's really a mystery to me that people rock-up to MSD, the fill out these forms, they do an interview - what we know from The Government's own information released in the last few days is that people who have been living in a tent have been classified as priority B for a state house and not priority A.”

MSD says the needs-assessment is not a strict question-answer format but is a 45-minute to an hour-long conversation between a staff member and the applicant. It says its systems are designed to ask the least amount of questions. However, the document Te Kāea received is 38 pages long with around 100 questions and multi-choice answers where applicable.

“I hesitate to blame MSD's form filling for this problem because what's at stake here is a massive shortage of affordable housing and we are in need of more state houses. That would solve a large part of this problem.”

Te Kāea contacted Minister Paula Bennett's office, but it said specific questions about the application process would be better directed to the MSD operations level.