The Government has taken a good step forward in attempting to increase the amount of emergency housing available in the region.
An emergency accommodation provider in Whakatane will receive more than $15,000 each year to fund five emergency places, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett announced, yesterday.
The first contracts to fund emergency housing providers for existing places have been finalised under a fast-tracked process that will give them certainty of funding and allow them to focus on the task of housing some of Whakatane's most vulnerable people.
The housing provider will receive funding of about $15,400 at a time when under increased pressure in the face of a difficult housing market.
The Minister announced $41.1 million for emergency accommodation in the Budget but has brought forward the start date for the funding and for the new, non-recoverable special needs grant.
She says both initiatives will significantly help people who find themselves in situations where they need accommodation urgently.
Existing providers can continue to apply for fast-tracked funding until mid-July.
They and new providers can also apply for the second instalment of funding until then.
The second round is expected to be finalised by mid-August.
Hopefully Tauranga and Rotorua will also benefit from the additional funding in the future.
Social agencies have been under increasing pressure in both cities as they struggle to cope with the growing problem of homelessness.
Rising rents are forcing an increasing number of families into a transient lifestyle of emergency accommodation, bunking with family or friends, or at worst, sleeping in garages, tents and cars.
In recent weeks, stories have highlighted some concerning trends: 10 per cent of kids at one Tauranga school are homeless or living in temporary accommodation.
In Rotorua, a district councillor has floated the idea of opening up community halls to provide temporary accommodation for those who have nowhere else to go.
Both cities are trying to tackle the issue at a grassroots level - the Whare 4 Whanau project to house struggling families opened in Tauranga, yesterday.
However, more Government support is needed.
Public pressure is perhaps the best way to ensure this happens.
There appears to be a growing understanding that many struggling families who have been unable to find accommodation have simply been affected by rising rents.
These families need our help.