Homeless here in the south

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2014

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Southland has 84 homeless people and nearly 250 more classed as severely housing-deprived.

The classification includes people without accommodation, people living in non-private accommodation and people living temporarily in severely crowded permanent private dwellings.

The figures are part of a study by Otago University and provide a quantitative look at homelessness in the south.

They show there are 39 people living without accommodation in Invercargill, 36 in the Southland district and nine in the Gore district.

However, a charitable trust is currently being set up in Southland with the aim of starting a night shelter for those in need.

The Breathing Space Trust is being spearheaded by Salvation Army Captain Perry Bray.

It incorporates community leaders, the Department of Corrections and local police.

They have collaborated to ensure those in need of temporary accommodation have somewhere to go, he said.

The trust will present its plans and statistics to the Invercargill City Council at its meeting on Tuesday.

A report compiled for the meeting by the council's community development manager, Mary Napper, says the university study shows 203 people in Invercargill are regarded as severely housing-deprived - 96 in the Southland District Council area, and 31 in the Gore District Council area.

Captain Bray said the trust would not be asking for monetary support at this stage, but may require backing from local authorities in the future.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt was approaching the idea with trepidation.

A night shelter could exacerbate the situation and, for some, sleeping rough was a lifestyle decision, he said.

"When you put out a helping hand, you've got to make sure you are not exacerbating the situation."

Mr Shadbolt said he was surprised by the study figures.

He expected a wide range of responses from the community to the shelter proposal, including those who did not think it was a good idea.

"It should be examined and analysed."

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said he was unaware there were nearly 100 people sleeping rough in his region. He said he would be interested to learn more about the trust.

Gore District Mayor Tracey Hicks echoed his sentiment.

"It's not something I come across on a regular basis. I would certainly be interested to know more about the issue. It does surprise me."

Southland police district's manager of prevention, Inspector Olaf Jensen, said staff had been talking with the trust and supported the idea.

However, some people chose to sleep rough and did not want accommodation provided for them, he said.

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"There's certainly support out there in the community for people who want to have accommodation through a number of agencies. A lot of these people do not want to live in accommodation.

"Some of the people we have dealt with recently have that view."

Police have not had to deal with as many issues with homeless people in the past month, he said, noting a decrease in callouts.

However, there was still "obviously a need for temporary accommodation".

Captain Bray said the final paperwork for the charitable trust was under way and the trust would start talking with community groups about funding soon.

Ideally, the trust would set up the shelter by the end of the year.

- The Southland Times

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