Extra emergency housing places for Auckland
Auckland's dire shortage of emergency housing will be addressed by introducing an extra 120 beds.
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said the Government would invest $2 million in non-government organisations in Auckland for a short-term emergency housing response to help address the current shortage of places.
The Ministry of Social Development had 99 places registered on its Auckland emergency housing database, but "very few vacancies at any time".
NGOs like Auckland City Mission, VisionWest and Monte Cecilia Housing Trust would be able to put forward proposals for the funding, Bennett said. Organisations could use the money for building refurbishments, new builds or ongoing operational costs.
She pointed to a successful scheme in Christchurch where a motel had been converted into emergency housing for 30 families.
Those families paid 25 per cent of their income toward their accommodation but the money was put into savings by the NGO and returned to families at the end of their stay to go back into bonds and deposits for permanent housing, Bennett said.
About $10,000 in total had been returned to the families, she said.
A housing database compiled by the Ministry showed Auckland's emergency beds were at 99 per cent occupancy. Bennett disagreed an extra 120 beds was inadequate to address the long waiting lists.
"It's one of those situations where would there ever be enough? We'll be looking for the most beds for the most efficient cost. This is not a night shelter, this is transitional housing so we can help people in emergency situations," she said.
Emergency housing is for people who urgently need somewhere to stay, including women and children, and single men.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown said Auckland's emergency housing waitlists were an "intolerable situation".
"Our current providers are at capacity and as a result way too many Aucklanders are sleeping rough or in cars. It's an intolerable situation and it's not good enough."
Employment and education needs could also be worked on once a person had been housed, Bennett said.
Further announcements about long-term solutions, including responses to the needs of other towns and cities, would be made "in the next few months," Bennett said.
The Auckland initiative would be implemented in partnership with Auckland Council which had set aside $250,000 for each of the next two years for emergency housing providers.
Social development agency Lifewise urged the Government to consider solutions that would end homelessness permanently, rather than temporarily manage the problem.
Lifewise General Manager Moira Lawler said while they welcomed more spending on transitional housing, it was not the answer for homeless people, who needed permanent homes.
Lawler advocated an approach that got people into permanent housing first, then gave them support to rebuild their lives out in the community, including addressing mental health or addiction problems, and helping them into training or work.
Housing people permanently was more cost effective than keeping them on the street, but Lawler said in the last year alone the number of people sleeping rough in central Auckland had doubled.
"New Zealand desperately needs to wake up and address the cold hard facts. Access to safe and secure housing is not a luxury – it is a human right," she said.
"If we don't act now, more and more people will be pushed to the margins, a cost we will all have to bear."