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Petition To End Youth Homelessness

“Our response to COVID on the face of it, had a very simple premise… stay home, save lives. That simple, simple requirement forced all of us as a country to ask the question – what if you don’t have a home? The answer was simple, we will find you one.” – Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Unfortunately, for rangatahi experiencing homelessness during COVID-19 lockdown, this was not the case.

Instead during the COVID-19 lockdown, rangatahi were at increased risk.

Manaaki Rangatahi call on Aotearoa, and the NZ Government, to join with us to End Youth Homelessness.

Sign the petition here: https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/end-youth-homelessness

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the existing inequities that our young people experience when facing homelessness. If you are a vulnerable young person tonight living in New Zealand, you will need to hope and pray that you have somewhere to sleep. There is limited safe and secure emergency housing available for young people meaning that those rangatahi who experience homelessness have been at-risk during this pandemic.

The Manaaki Rangatahi ki Tāmaki Youth Homelessness Collective was established in 2018 as a way of consolidating the work of different organisations who are trying to tackle youth homelessness. Member organisations including VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, Kahui Tu Kaha, Lifewise, Strive Community Trust, RainbowYOUTH and VisionWest are calling for immediate and urgent action to respond to Youth Homelessness.

Young people are over represented in the homeless community, with over half our homeless population being aged under 25, and over a quarter being children. As a collective, we know that there are not enough safe, secure, and suitable youth specific housing options available for rangatahi facing homelessness. With limited housing options allocated for youth homelessness in Aotearoa, and no youth specific strategy to address youth homelessness, member organisations and services are reporting that they are having to turn hundreds of young people away because there are no beds and accommodation available.

Strive Community Trust have been doing their best to support rangatahi into emergency accommodation during this time, however Strive Operations Manager Bill Peace is concerned that with limited options for 16 or 17 year olds, and without any youth specific support for young people in the accommodation they do find, rangatahi are left vulnerable and at risk.

Bianca Johanson, Youth Strategy & Development Co-ordinator at Lifewise has identified that: “What has become very clear is that we need to do more for our young people… Some of our rangatahi are being abused within their whanau of origin, within emergency motel and accommodation settings, our rangatahi are facing overwhelming vulnerability, many are struggling with finding places to sleep and somewhere safe to stay. One such story came to my attention today of a young woman that is pregnant and living in her car, she has nowhere to go and agencies are trying to find somewhere for her”.

If we call on young people to stay home and save lives, where are they supposed to go?

Some young people have been left to fend for themselves, many being forced to live in unsafe and unfit environments, while others have had to live in their cars or on the streets. Some young people have had to remain in dangerous and abusive environments, and many have suffered deterioration in their mental health due to the lack of stability and support.

Young Māori are disproportionately affected with Youth Housing and Homelessness services reporting a disproportionate amount of rangatahi Māori accessing their services. Aaron Hendry, Team Leader of the Lifewise Youth Housing service says that just under 80% of the young people that access their service identify as Māori.

Therese Go, RainbowYOUTH’s Homeless Youth and Whanau Support Worker reports that the pandemic has also highlighted the urgent need for specialised housing support for rainbow rangatahi. “We’ve been working with a lot of young people who are navigating the really difficult and sometimes dangerous situation of being quarantined with family who are not supportive of their sexuality or gender identity.”

The impact on Care experienced rangatahi is also being highlighted, and Simulata Pope from VOYCE Whakarongo Mai has identified that rangatahi who have experienced state care are being disproportionately affected on many different levels due to the current COVID-19 restrictions.

The COVID-19 crisis has continued to widen inequality gaps, with no targeted strategy or unified framework to address the specific needs of young people; they will continue to be marginalised and oppressed by the system.

Call to action – the ability to “stay home, save lives” is a basic human right.

This is a national call to action on youth homelessness by Manaaki Rangatahi ki Tāmaki Youth Homelessness Collective. There are serious health risks that need to be considered in regards to the COVID-19 national recovery phase. There needs to be significant priorities which seek to address and respond to the complex issues we have identified.

To meet this urgent need, Manaaki Rangatahi are calling for allocation of resources in order to provide immediate safe, secure, supported accommodation to rangatahi who are experiencing homelessness.

Manaaki Rangatahi would also like to see a National Action Plan to End Youth Homelessness created. Youth Homelessness is both a human rights crisis as well as a health crisis, and without a clear strategy to address Youth Homelessness, rangatahi will continue to be at-risk.

We can start working together to collectively meet these urgent needs but we require significant investment and support to continue addressing the gaps in order to ensure that every young person has a safe and secure place to call home.

“This is not an issue that we have 10 years to solve, every year lost, is another generation lost to the streets.” says Aaron Hendry who points to what has been achieved for rough sleepers during the lockdown as proof that “…when the need is great enough, and the value of human life is placed at the centre, kiwis can move mountains in order to ensure that our most vulnerable are cared for.”

Manaaki Rangatahi call on Aotearoa, and the NZ Government, to join with us to End Youth Homelessness.

Member Organisations: VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, Kahui Tu Kaha, Lifewise, Strive Community Trust, RainbowYOUTH and VisionWest

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