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Government urged to take next step to help families

May 19, 2016

Government urged to take next step to help families living on our streets

The Government’s announcement of more funding for emergency housing is a welcome first step and will provide some relief to homeless families, individuals and hard-pressed service providers.

However emergency housing providers are calling for the government to now take the next step of changing existing policies and moving families in emergency housing programmes to the top of the list for social housing.

Emergency housing providers provide intensive wrap around support and typically work with families for 10-16 weeks to prepare them to move into permanent housing, in addition to providing a safe place to stay during that time.

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust CEO Bernie Smith says emergency housing providers are full because families are not able to find affordable rentals once they have completed the programmes on offer.

“We have had families waiting for up to nine months before they receive a suitable offer of housing. Not only is that difficult for the families but it is a missed opportunity - we could have been helping many more families.”

He says families benefitting from the intensive case management wrap around support services are better equipped to sustain any new tenancy long term.

“The Government should make these families a priority for social housing as they already fund the wrap around services – it is a natural progression. Taking this next step is in line with the Minister for Social Housing Paula Bennett’s goal of moving people to a place where they are independent and it is also the best use of government funding.”

De Paul House’s Jan Rutledge says the government’s new commitment to assist those needing emergency housing is good news and is now focused on making sure this investment is making the best use of its programmes.

“We agree the average stay should be 12-16 weeks, but that’s not happening now. Three families have been staying with us for between nine to 13 months, which is not the best use of our resources with so much demand for emergency housing places. Their needs are very real and they should be priority for social housing.”

She says the social housing waiting list priorities need to change to enable families to successfully transition into affordable rental housing and allow providers to assist more families.

“Currently we have two families who have taken between six to eight weeks to be assessed for social housing with the Ministry of Social Development. This is despite an obvious need and the fact that they are living in emergency housing – things need to move quicker than this.”

ENDS

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