Govt announces $41.1 million boost for emergency housing
A $41.1 million funding boost for New Zealand's emergency housing providers will allow them to focus on providing more support for vulnerable Kiwis, rather than fundraising for beds, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says.
At a pre-Budget announcement outside the Wellington Night Shelter, Bennett announced the Government would fund about 3000 emergency housing places across the country each year for the next four years.
About $32 million would be spent on funding non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide the beds.
Another $9 million would be used to set up a special needs grant, providing up to a week of emergency housing for Kiwis in need who could not get a place through the NGOs.
The money would fund about 3000 emergency beds over a 12-month period, with about 800 beds available at any one time.
Roughly half of the places would be in Auckland, with another 100 in Christchurch and 60 for main centres like Wellington.
Bennett said the Government wanted to help the increasing number of people living on the streets, particularly in Auckland, as a consequence of rising rents.
The money would give emergency housing providers "absolute certainty of funding", allowing them to spend more time and money on support services for those using the shelters.
"What agencies and organisations were telling us...was, if you paid for the beds, then we're not fundraising for them [and] we can actually get on with the job of doing more wraparound services and better connecting people into the help that they might need."
Those who received emergency housing would have to contribute up to 25 per cent of their income towards their bed, with each provider deciding the actual amount.
"Different organisations will have their own ways of working it, but actually they've [those in emergency housing] got to start getting themselves into a position where they are contributing for themselves."
Wellington Night Shelter Trust chairman John Kennedy-Good said the funding was a "welcome lifeline" for the shelter, which revealed in March it was facing a $30,000 funding crisis.
"Right now, the night shelter is only barely surviving, with all our resources focused on keeping our doors open."
Kennedy-Good said the funding could allow the shelter to focus on "breaking the cycle of homelessness, rather than applying a band-aid".
Community Housing Aotearoa director Scott Figenshow said the funding and grants were "a great addition".
However, he was concerned that the agreements would not be signed until after winter, and said existing providers should receive a slice of the funds from July 1 to increase the number of beds on offer.
Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the Government's announcement was "the inevitable consequence" of its failure to address the housing crisis and state housing sell-off.
"New Zealand is witnessing an unprecedented rise in homelessness as a generation of Kiwi families fall between the cracks opened up by John Key, allowing the housing crisis to spiral out of control.
"You just have to walk through the centre of our main cities to see the rise in homeless people begging for money or food. New Zealanders hate to see poverty and squalor on our streets."