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A night shelter is not a home Nick Smith

Social Development Spokesperson
A night shelter is not a home Nick Smith
The Minister of Housing today dismissed the official definition of homelessness, further fuelling concerns that he is trivialising the breadth of the problem, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

“Night shelters and refuges across the country provide up to 850 beds on any given day.

“According to Nick Smith anyone using one of those beds has a ‘a roof over their head’, so should not be categorised as homeless.

“Based on that, a family living in a garage, a couch surfer having to doss down in a mate’s lounge, or someone temporarily living in a boarding house because they have no permanent home, won’t be counted by the Minister or his department as being homeless either.

“This completely contradicts his Government’s own official definition of homelessness as set out by Statistics New Zealand. That suggests that either the Minister doesn’t know what it is, or he is deliberating trying to narrow down the problem. Either way, it is a frightening response.

“In Parliament today Mr Smith also tried to argue that defining ‘homeless’ was somehow ‘esoteric’. It might be for him, but for anyone else it’s pretty simple. Sleeping rough is not the only form of homelessness. Ask the person sleeping at a night shelter whether they feel like they have a home?

“Of course how we define the problem matters - especially given it determines whether Housing New Zealand prioritises someone for housing or not - which is perhaps why Mr Smith is trying to dismiss it.

“He also can’t seem to get to grips with the fact Housing New Zealand, by its own definition, houses on average just 250 ‘homeless’ people each year. On the other hand a service provider in one city had more than 200 new homeless clients through its doors last year and another,130.

“It is clear the Government has no strategy to deal with the complex social issue of homelessness.

“Still, it's no wonder with a minister who has such a narrow and ill-informed view of it.”


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