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Housing First Addresses Auckland Homelessness

Housing First collective makes positive start in addressing Auckland homelessness

Housing First services have supported 150 people into 93 permanent homes across Auckland in the first four months of operation. The collective was launched in March this year as a two-year demonstration project to end homelessness for 472 chronically homeless people (adults) in Auckland using the internationally proven Housing First model.

The collective is made up of five services working across different areas of the city: Affinity Services, Lifewise together with Auckland City Mission, LinkPeople and VisionWest.

Of the 93 households, 43 are in the West, 18 in the CBD, 27 in South Auckland and five in Central Auckland. More than three-quarters of the homes have been sourced from the private rental market and more than half the adults in services are single males.

Project lead Julie Nelson said while it is very early days for the collective, the outcomes that have been achieved in the first four months are impressive and encouraging – especially for the people who now have the certainty of a home of their own.

“You cannot under-estimate the relief for people no longer having to worry about where their next meal or shelter for the night is going to come from. This is key to Housing First because when a person doesn’t have to worry about survival all the time, they can start thinking about and addressing, with support, the other things that are going on in their life.”

She said Housing First work is gritty, intensive and complex.

“It is not uncommon for people to lose their tenancy and be re-housed several times because of the complexity of multiple needs. That’s why Housing First splits the case management and tenancy management roles – to ensure the tenancy is more likely to be successful, but equally to ensure that if it is not, the support remains in place to rapidly find new housing with continued support.”

The international success rate for Housing First is an 80 per cent tenancy retention, e.g. 80 per cent of people in Housing First services will be successful in retaining their tenancy and never return to homelessness. Of the people the collective has worked with so far, 95% remain housed.

In Auckland, single males have represented more than half of the adults housed in the first four months.

Nelson said this is not unexpected; single men are more likely to sleep rough and this reflects the profile of Housing First services around the world. However, she said New Zealand is different because there are also many families here experiencing chronic homelessness.

“Across the collective 23 families have been supported into permanent homes which include 57 children. Stable housing is incredibly important for children because the flow-on effects impact on their health, wellbeing and education outcomes.”

Nelson said chronic homelessness across Auckland does look different depending on the location.

“In the city centre, Lifewise and Auckland City Mission are working with mostly single rough sleepers who are known to their services. Whereas in the West and South there is a mix of individuals and families which require community outreach through church groups, social services and visits to places where people are known to sleep rough or in their cars.”

Nelson said she is not surprised that most of the housing that has been sourced has come from the private rental market. This reflects results of other Housing First programmes in New Zealand.

“Private landlords are an incredibly important partner for the services in the collective. Housing First has a lot to offer landlords, including guaranteed rent, free tenancy management and knowing tenants really well because a regular home visit is part of the programme.”

Nelson said in addition to the people who now have homes, the five services are working with another 156 people to achieve the same outcome.

Housing First Auckland has launched a results page on its website which will be updated each month so that members of the public can track progress of the collective’s work: www.housingfirst.co.nz/results.

Housing First Auckland - the first four months at a glance (1 April – 30 July 2017):

• 93 households – 43 in West Auckland, 18 in the City Centre, 27 in South Auckland and 5 in Central Auckland

• 150 people housed – 70 single adults + 23 families including 57 children

• 71 houses sourced through private sector landlords, 17 with Housing NZ and 5 other: community housing provider.


Background to the Housing First Auckland collective

In October 2016, the Ministry of Social Development invited community providers with a track record in the supportive housing sector to submit an RFP for a Housing First pilot project in Auckland. Five providers were selected to deliver a two-year Housing First pilot project in the City Centre, Central, West and South Auckland.

The providers are: Lifewise and Auckland City Mission working in the city centre, Affinity Services working in Central and West Auckland; LinkPeople working in South Auckland and VisionWest working in West Auckland.

All providers were selected due to their prior experience in working with those who have experienced homelessness, with several providers working for some time within a Housing First framework.

About Housing First

The Housing First model has been operating internationally since the early 1990s and has been evaluated as one of the most effective programmes available for addressing chronic homelessness. Housing First has been widely adopted across the US, is central to the national homelessness strategies in Canada, Denmark, Finland and France and is in growing popularity in countries including Italy, Sweden, Spain and the UK. It is backed by more than 20 years of research by Dr Sam Tsemberis, the founder of Housing First.

Watch: A 101 to Housing First with Dr Sam Tsemberis, filmed when he was in New Zealand in March 2017:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMLsG8x-3Rs&t=16s

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