23 March 2012
Homelessness Scoping Paper Gets The Go Ahead
At yesterday’s Strategy and Policy Committee meeting, Councillors unanimously voted to proceed with a new approach to reduce homelessness in the Capital.
The plan is for Wellington City Council to take the lead on a multi-agency approach to help homeless people, or people threatened with homelessness, quicker.
The Council’s Social Portfolio Leader, Councillor Stephanie Cook, says this scoping paper will build upon the City Council’s groundbreaking Homelessness Strategy of 2004.
“Eight years have now passed and much has changed in that time,” says Cr Cook. “The number of homeless people in Wellington has increased, and we need to look at the gaps in services that may have contributed to this – likely a combination of a challenging economic climate and the withdrawal of central government support from a number of activities.”
The idea is to have a ‘lock-in’ – getting relevant NGOs and Government departments into a room – to come up with an action plan. This will ideally involve organisations such as the Department of Corrections, Capital and Coast District Health Board, Housing New Zealand, the Night Shelter, Te Aro Health, and the Downtown Community Ministry.
Councillor Cook says many agencies are already working well together.
“We know that the Downtown Community Ministry has a working relationship with Te Aro Health and the Night Shelter, for example. But we need to come to an agreement among organisations as to who will do what, and to look at systemic problems. We’ve got differing philosophies in the sector, as well as gaps and overlaps in services. Working with practitioners will help us to better meet the needs of homeless people.”
Mayor Wade-Brown commended the scoping paper.
“This will be a significant step in contributing to our Towards 2040 strategy – a major part of which is being a people-centred city.”
The aims of the new strategy will include a citywide approach; gathering more reliable data; closing the entry points to homelessness – for example by working with people struggling to pay their rent and working with them so they don’t lose their home; breaking down funding silos; information-sharing between organisations; appropriate training for staff; investigating the feasibility of a central service for all affordable accommodation options in Wellington City.
Once an agreement has taken place, a draft homelessness policy will be brought back to the Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee.
Councillor Cook looks forward to the seeing what the ‘lock-in’ will come up with.
“This is essential work. We’re aware that you can never fully ‘end’ homelessness – new people find themselves in this situation all the time. What we want to do, however, is have systems in place to help them out immediately, and hopefully into some accommodation that meets their needs.”
Homelessness is officially defined as a living situation where a person cannot acquire safe and secure housing, is without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodation with a household, or living in substandard housing.
The Council estimates there are 200 homeless people in Wellington City – including rough sleepers. This compares with 160 a year ago.
For more information please contact:
Barbara Burke, Council Communications, phone 803 8527 or 021 227 8527.