Ending homelessness in Aotearoa

Carol Barron —

World Homeless Day is held on 10 October. Its purpose is to draw attention to the needs of people who experience homelessness and to provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness.

Permanent, secure, appropriate, safe housing is a basic human right for everyone.

Members of the Methodist Alliance are leading initiatives to end homelessness in Aotearoa and celebrated the day with a variety of exhibitions and events.

On Sunday 10 October 2021 seven doors were placed in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square illustrating seven different ways to ending homelessness. The doors were part of an interactive exhibition that shared the stories of Housing First Kaewa (clients), the perspectives of the Housing First collaborative partners and staff, and the ways in which people can reduce the stigma of homelessness.

The event was organised by Housing First Ōtautahi which is a collaborative approach to ending homelessness. Because homelessness is a complex issue that no single organisation has the ability to solve, six organisations work together using the Housing First approach. Their goal is that homelessness in Ōtautahi Christchurch will be brief, rare and non-recurring. Christchurch Methodist Mission is the lead organisation for Housing First Ōtautahi and the other collaborative partners are Te Whare Roimata Trust, Emerge Aotearoa Group, Christchurch City Mission, Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust, and Comcare Trust.

The strength of the collaboration is the multi-agency approach that provides ongoing wrap-around support services to help people find and stay in their homes and never return to homelessness.

Each agency contributed to the interactive exhibition and the main theme was to show compassion. You can read more about it in this article on Stuff: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/126636961/i-was-just-existing-woman-recalls-terror-of-abuse-before-she-ended-up-homeless

Ending Homelessness an Investment in the Future

In Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, the work of Lifewise, Airedale Property Trust and Methodist Mission Northern with people experiencing homelessness was also acknowledged and celebrated on World Homeless Day.

Rev Rex Nathan, Lifewise’s Kaumātua, says, “As we draw attention to World Homeless Day, I’d like to acknowledge the fantastic work that Lifewise and the Three Trusts in Tāmaki Makaurau and Rotorua Aotearoa have done and continue to do in housing the homeless and to care for those who have been placed into housing. Homelessness has been around many years. I witnessed homelessness growing up in Auckland in the 1950s. There were not as many homeless people then as there are now. I wholeheartedly acknowledge and commend all people involved in attempting to end homelessness in Aotearoa and worldwide. Ma te Atua koutou manaaki tiaki i nga waa katoa – May God bless you and protect you at all times.”

Peter Shimwell, Lifewise Community Service Manager, says, "Bringing an end to homelessness for rangatahi in Aotearoa is an investment in our future. If we take steps to avoid losing another generation to homelessness, we build a stronger, brighter, healthier community for us all.”

Rohan MacMahon, Chair of the Lifewise Board, says, "While most Aucklanders have been at home over the recent lockdown, spare a thought for the many in our community who don’t have a home. Our homeless whānau are at great risk of Covid-19 as many have underlying health conditions. At Lifewise, we’re committed to ending homelessness, and we are working in the meantime to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. To make this happen, we’d like to see more permanent housing and more support services for people experiencing homelessness.”

John Murray, Head of Mission, Methodist Mission Northern, says, "Homeless action requires us to acknowledge our responsibility for one another; if it is building houses then we need to make them affordable, provide comprehensive training for tradespeople, keep compliance costs to a minimum, make construction materials and fittings available. We need to ensure everyone has access to warm, affordable and safe shelter – people should feel a sense of belonging to the community where they are homed, and no one should be deprived of dignity because of political inaction.”

Kyle Provan, Methodist Mission Northern’s Chaplain at Large, says, "Housing is a major key to people being healthier in their mind, body and sense of self. Safe housing is the only way we are going to stop the generational cycle of people on the street. My heart breaks for these intelligent, articulate, caring people who make up our street population. We need to start putting long term solutions in like supported housing to support people to be the best they can be."

Given many chronic rough sleepers began their life on the streets as teenagers, Lifewise Community Services Manager, Peter Shimwell, is worried “we could lose another generation to homelessness.” Peter says, “We need a proper strategy so young people who exit care and youth correctional facilities aren’t left with nowhere to go. We need to build the capacity as a sector and not just for their housing needs but also their mental health, training and support needs.”