Homeless in motels as $2m for emergency housing yet to be released

Social housing minister Paula Bennett said 120 beds in Auckland should be available before winter hits.

Social housing minister Paula Bennett said 120 beds in Auckland should be available before winter hits.

Two million dollars in funding announced for emergency housing last year is yet to be allocated - while the homeless are being put up in motels.

Social housing minister Paula Bennett said in September that the Government would fund social support organisations for short-term emergency housing.

However, the Government was following a tender process where requests for proposals had only just been submitted - four months later.

Social policy analyst Alan Johnson told Morning Report that 10 to 20 families were living in their cars in Auckland.
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Social policy analyst Alan Johnson told Morning Report that 10 to 20 families were living in their cars in Auckland.

"Within weeks we expect to have around a third of the new emergency beds available, with the remainder coming on stream well before winter," Bennett said.

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"We frequently place those with the most urgent need in motels for short durations while agencies can work with them to get them into more long-term housing."

Finance minister Bill English said support organisations were involved in how the money should be spent, and he supported putting people up in motels. "It's better than having nowhere to live," he said.

"But it's short term. "What we do know ispeople being homeless in the long run is very expensive... If it costs a bit more to get people stable and sustainable then we're quite happy to pay."

However, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei criticised the Government for taking so long to put the funding to use.

"I think it's a disgrace that the money hasn't been made available," she said.

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"There are real issues with making sure that the community organisations are ready to take on more emergency housing, but the need is dire all over the country.

"There are organisations crying out for the resources to house more people...this government is just sitting on its hands while people are living in their cars."

Turei wasn't expecting any extra funding in the Budget, which English is set to announce in May.

Cabinet papers from 2015 released to the Labour Party under the Official Information Act revealed the emergency housing sector was growing under increasing pressure.

The problem was particularly bad in Auckland where housing providers had "virtually no vacancies", to the point where the Ministry of Social Development had to put people up in motels.

The Salvation Army, who released a damning report about government agencies manipulating their performance ratings, claimed it could take a year for the money to actually help the people it needs to.

Salvation Army senior policy advisor Alan Johnson estimated 10 to 20 families were living in their cars in Auckland.

Longer term funding was needed to help the lack of resource, he said.

Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford criticised the Government's lack of action in helping the homeless.

"Paula Bennett's announcement last year was merely to look as if the Government was doing something to help the homeless as more and more stories of families living in cars and in garages were made public," he said.

Twyford said the homeless were "forgotten victims of National's housing crisis".

 - Stuff

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