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Housing First for Auckland’s “invisible homeless”

Housing First for Auckland’s “invisible homeless”

Social development agency Lifewise are commending the Salvation Army on their report into homelessness in Auckland, titled “Invisible in the Super City,” which was released yesterday.

The report found that there are over 1,200 homeless people in Auckland, 47% of which are children. The most common reason for people becoming homeless is that they are unable to sustain paying rent.

“People will recover from mental health and addiction problems, and will reestablish connections with their families and communities, but it takes much longer to recover from poverty,” says Moira Lawler, Lifewise’s General Manager. “Having flexible financial support to ensure people don’t spend more than 30% of their income on rent is crucial to solving homelessness.”

In this instance, “homelessness” refers to anyone living in unsuitable conditions. This ranges from rough sleepers, the most visible form of homelessness, to the “invisible homeless;” families living in overcrowded houses, garages, cars or temporary accommodation.

Lifewise utilises a Housing First model to get people into permanent accommodation – a practice that doesn’t deem sanity or sobriety a prerequisite for housing, instead getting people into stable, safe accommodation first, then addressing other underlying problems later.

Housing First has successfully been used to end homelessness in cities in the US and Canada. The model was developed in 1992 by Dr. Sam Tsemberis, a Canadian community psychologist who Lifewise recently hosted while he attended a Community Housing Aotearoa conference as a key note speaker, addressing community housing providers on how the model could be applied in a New Zealand context.

Lifewise are currently one of the few organisations using Housing First, although their work is limited by the lack of affordable housing stock. Lifewise believe that more housing and increased collaboration between government, social agencies and private providers are key to solving the issue.

“There simply aren’t enough homes available,” says Moira. “We need more quality, affordable housing, and we need to work together across the sector to ensure our most vulnerable people – including children - are taken care of.”


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