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An opportunity to mobilise nationwide action

Homelessness conference an opportunity to mobilise nationwide action

With more than 30,000 New Zealanders severely housing deprived and rough sleeping on the rise, homelessness is creating substantial health, social and economic consequences. On February 26, the New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness (NZCEH) will gather for the Waking Up to Homelessness conference, an initiative supported by social development organisation Lifewise.

With representatives from government and various agencies attending, the conference aims to set a date to end homelessness in New Zealand. However, in order to implement real change, a national strategy is required. Solutions to ending homelessness do exist, evident in the fact that Lifewise are successfully housing people straight from the street. Lifewise have supported 61 people into permanent housing in the last year alone.

Lifewise take the well-evidenced ‘housing first’’ approach to homelessness, helping people to connect with their community and maintain happy, healthy lives. Their holistic support services addressing underlying issues including mental health, addiction, probation and welfare, ensure an extremely high success rate for housing placements.

In order to develop a solution to homelessness in New Zealand, it’s crucial to deconstruct common misconceptions surrounding homelessness, such as that of personal choice.

“Believing that people choose to subject themselves to the danger, exposure and humiliation of sleeping rough over the security and comfort of adequate housing is a highly simplistic approach,” says Moira Lawler, Lifewise General Manager. “People make a ‘choice’ to sleep rough due to extremely complex and challenging situations, such as women and children who leave their homes to escape domestic violence. Providing better support to families to expand people’s options is the ultimate solution.”

“Charity alone won’t solve the problems faced by those who have to resort to begging,” she says. “A collaborative response and a rejection of social and economic exclusion is the only way to address homelessness that will have long-term benefits, and we need a commitment from the government, the public and from other agencies.”

The Waking Up to Homelessness conference is a significant step in the right direction for New Zealand’s most vulnerable. To effectively address this issue on a nationwide scale, a collaborative, solutions-based approach is required.

The political advocacy provided by the Coalition provides a collective voice for agencies like Lifewise. “The NZCEH provides an opportunity to create a powerful political voice for New Zealand’s homeless,” says Moira. “We know from the calls we receive that people all over New Zealand are concerned about homelessness. The NZCEH conference is a great place to start to focus on solutions.”

“As an organisation, we can only do so much - to really make a difference we, as a nation, need to work together,” she says. “New Zealanders need to make a commitment to a collaborative solution that addresses the issues that underpin homelessness, and the NZCEH provides the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

- Ends -

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