Temporary Housing a Temporary Solution
Lifewise are urging the government to consider solutions that will end homelessness permanently, rather than temporarily manage the problem, following Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett’s $2 million plan to set up transitional housing for families in Auckland.
“We welcome more spending on transitional housing, but we urge the government to address the root causes of homelessness in New Zealand,” says Moira Lawler, Lifewise General Manager. “Transitional housing and motel accommodation offers shelter for our most vulnerable, but it’s not the answer to ending homelessness in New Zealand. Homeless people need permanent homes.”
Lifewise uses Housing First, an internationally recognised model that has been used around the world to end homelessness. Housing First focuses on getting people into permanent homes first, and then gives them support to rebuild their lives out in the community, including addressing mental health and addiction problems, and helping people get into training or work.
Housing First is the only method that has been proven to truly end homelessness. In October, Lifewise, with Community Housing Aotearoa (CHA), will host Canadian community psychologist Dr. Sam Tsemberis, who first implemented the model in New York in 1992. Dr. Tsemberis will be meeting influencers in the sector in Auckland before travelling to Wellington to appear as a keynote speaker at CHA’s Impact conference, where he will speak to the wider community housing sector about successfully implementing Housing First in a New Zealand context.
“We are incredibly proud of how we have used Housing First to end homelessness, and we hope that this model can be implemented throughout New Zealand,” says Moira. “There are hundreds of people living out in the community who would still be on the streets if we hadn’t used this approach.”
Homelessness is increasing around New Zealand. In the last year alone, the number of people sleeping rough in Central Auckland has doubled, and service providers report that the demand for their services is increasing every year.
Housing people permanently is more cost effective than keeping them on the streets. Emergency visits, hospital stays, temporary shelter and going through the justice system all snowball into huge costs to New Zealand taxpayers.
Comparatively, the costs of a Housing First approach are small. However, the current housing crisis has meant that Lifewise has struggled to find places for people.
“We currently have over 90 people who are ready to be housed, but we have nowhere to put them,” says Moira. “There are not enough houses for everyone in New Zealand. Those most affected by Auckland’s housing crisis are our most vulnerable – people who end up sleeping in over-crowded garages, on people’s couches and under bridges when they can’t afford a rental.”
“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 says. “If we don’t act now, more and more people will be pushed to the margins, a cost we will all have to bear.”