Amy is the head of news for the Bay of Plenty Times.

More emergency housing welcomed

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Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust social services director Tommy Wilson.
Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust social services director Tommy Wilson.

About 60 emergency housing places could be made available in the Bay of Plenty as part of $41.1 million of new funding announced, and social service agencies have welcomed it as a a step in the right direction.

The Ministry of Social Development announced yesterday it would provide $41.1 million over the next four years in Budget 2016 for emergency housing and grants, and expected that would pay for about 3000 emergency housing places across the country per year.

A spokeswoman from the office of Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett confirmed the early proposal was for about 60 places in larger centres such as the Bay of Plenty, 350 to 360 in Auckland, about 100 in Canterbury and about 20 for each of the smaller centres. Individuals or families would be able to stay for a maximum of three months, meaning 240 Bay people or families would be helped each year.

In June the Ministry would seek expressions of interest from providers and the first contracts were expected to be in place by September.

Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust social services director Tommy Wilson said the announcement was encouraging and confirmed that the trust would be informing the Ministry of their interest in gaining a Bay of Plenty contract.

"As Tauranga grows, so does the social housing need and so does the emergency housing."

The men's shelter took in homeless men and the Women's Refuge provided a safe place for women and children who had been abused, but there were others who fell through the cracks, Mr Wilson said. "There is nowhere for the mum of five kids to go to when the father has gone back to prison or has gone back to the gangs."

Merivale Community Centre manager Tauha Te Kani said he was in favour of anything that could help although it was no "silver bullet". In his 25 years working in social services, Mr Te Kani said he had never seen a situation so bad.

"We have people coming in every day at their wits end," he said. "It's a really, really big issue. It's probably our biggest issue."

He said the lack of housing had flow-on effects and there was now a problem with overcrowding in the suburb.

"I've been to homes here that have had a bed set up in every room bar the toilet, bathroom and laundry."

While he welcomed the announcement of funding for emergency housing, there was no one answer, he said. People needed somewhere permanent so they could put their roots down and become involved in the community, he said.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller agreed improved access to emergency housing was vital to supporting families and communities. "I think it's fantastic that there's a dedicated amount of money with a dedicated amount of places for the region."

While there were currently no emergency housing providers in the Western Bay, Mr Muller said he was confident that with funding available providers would come forward.

How the funding will be used:

* The Ministry of Social Development will contract NGOs to provide about 3000 emergency housing places each year.

* A new emergency housing Special Needs Grant to support individuals and families with the cost of emergency housing for up to seven days if they are unable to access a contracted place.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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