The Problem Of Homelessness

Society often blames the person for being homeless, but the person is not the problem. Compounding factors cause homelessness.
How do we see homelessness? Being homeless is like being a ship in a raging storm battered from wave to wave. All you want is to find a safe cove to shelter from the storm. Compounding factors contribute to someone becoming homeless, including low incomes, high rents, health problems, problematic relationships, the effects of traumatic experiences, inadequate supply of new housing, a lack of affordable housing and government policies. By the time whānau arrive on our doorstep, they have exhausted all other avenues of support, they are deeply worn out from transient living and many have complex needs. Many feel overwhelmed by constant uncertainty and worry; the struggle
of trying to look after themselves and raise their children, unattended and often preventable health needs, disrupted whānau relationships and/ or inadequate social support. Some are battling addictions or living with the deeply traumatic effects of domestic violence or sexual abuse. Others may be negotiating serious psychological disorders. Some hard-working whānau on low incomes cannot afford market rents and come to us because they need safe shelter and advocacy support. They are desperate to escape the stress and health risks of living in a damp garage, their car or crowded living conditions. At a macro-level, according to a recent government-commissioned New Zealand Housing Stocktake Report (Johnson, Howden-Chapman and Eaqub, 2018), government policies over recent years have contributed to housing shortages, declining homeownership rates, greater housing instability, increasing levels of housing- related poverty, and an inadequate response to increasing homelessness. Auckland’s housing shortage has been pegged at around 45,000 units but this figure may still not accurately represent the situation. Private rentals tend to be of a poorer quality and tenancies more uncertain than home ownership. Māori and Pacific peoples, in particular, are more likely to live in poor quality housing.
Intensive, wrap-around support is needed to address homelessness, trauma and other complex needs. Struggling for survival severely hinders everyday routines (such as sleep patterns, healthy eating, health maintenance), disrupts a sense of the future (including setting goals and achieving aspirations) and creates major obstacles for making a meaningful contribution to society. Working with people in crisis is demanding and requires a 24/7 commitment. While funding criteria can change, our approach must be consistent to achieve meaningful and sustainable outcomes.

An emergency housing snapshot

In mid-2016 the previous Government began an emergency housing programme under urgency. According to Johnson, Howden-Chapman and Eaqub (2018) it increased the number of places available for families without secure housing, from 643 in September 2016 to 1663 in September 2017 and hoped to achieve 2,155 places by the end of 2017 (p. 5). The Government also introduced an emergency housing needs grant. Over this period, the numbers of households categorised as Priority A on the social housing waiting list and living in insecure housing almost doubled from 1,139 to 2,168 (2018, p. 3). The authors note that is hard to assess the size and trends of

the homelessness problem because of its diverse nature as well as privacy issues and secrecy when gathering evidence, but while the problem of homelessness problem is not easing, it may be stabilising.