Housing is the biggest challenge facing the communities being helped by Western Bay's social sector, according to the interim results of a new mapping project.

There are more than 220 agencies providing hundreds of social services in Western Bay of Plenty and a new initiative aims to provide a one-stop, integrated database of all the work they do - and what issues they face.

The project is jointly funded by social sector umbrella organisation SociaLink and the SmartGrowth partnership, and so far SociaLink has met with 57 organisations and collected publicly available information from 123.

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SociaLink general manager Liz Davies said the organisation was about halfway through the project which, she said, would result in a better understanding of who was doing what and any key delivery priorities in the social sector.

Of the 57 agencies interviewed in person by SociaLink, 40 per cent identified housing as the biggest challenge. This was the social issue with the highest percentage so far.

Isolation, domestic violence, poverty, health and mental health were also identified as big challenges.

"We are now working with the second half of the agencies to complete the research and mapping process," Ms Davies said.

SociaLink's general manager Liz Davies says the organisation is about half way through the new Western Bay social services mapping project. Photo/file.
SociaLink's general manager Liz Davies says the organisation is about half way through the new Western Bay social services mapping project. Photo/file.

The mapping project would also look at ways to enable organisations to work together and would provide up-to-date reporting on what services were out there.

"Several databases exist already but there is no integrated and in-depth picture of all our social sector organisations and the vital services that they provide," Ms Davies said.

"We are collecting publicly available information and holding in-depth interviews with agencies to create a clear map of the social sector. We are also seeking information on what would help the sector improve delivery and support to the community and how to increase opportunities for learning and collaboration."

She said many of the big providers like the Ministry of Social Development, Department of Internal Affairs, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and the public health organisations had been interviewed.

Other social service agencies including Maori and iwi organisations were yet to be contacted.

Under the Stars, which provides meals and more for the homeless in Tauranga, is one of the organisations that will meet with SociaLink.

Liz Kite, who runs the volunteer charity, agreed that housing was a main issue and challenge for the people she sees struggling on the street. So was mental health.

"I meet a lot of people who have got mental illness and don't have a place to live," she told the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday.

"Definitely housing for individual people - that clientele is really hard to find housing for because they can't afford a normal three-bedroom house. And then the people that are helping out with housing, it's usually for single mums or families that haven't got accommodation. But a single person is really difficult to find some sort of housing for."

SociaLink's full mapping project was expected to be completed and reported back to the SmartGrowth leadership group in the New Year.

Bernie Walsh, SmartGrowth's implementation manager, said the organisation's social sector forum had advocated for a better understanding of the social sector and ways to improve connections and support.

"We are pleased to be part of this joint work with SociaLink because SmartGrowth is all about how to make collaborative partnerships work well for the benefit of communities," she said.

"The social sector is a complex space and so the first step was to map what everybody was doing and hear directly any feedback on opportunities for boosting effectiveness."

She said this was a priority action in the SmartGrowth strategy.