Emergency housing boost a quick fix

By Alexandra Newlove

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The Government funding of 20 extra emergency housing beds in Northland risks such facilities becoming an "entrenched" solution to the housing crisis, a provider says.

Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust (TTEHT) had 10 to 12 families each week requesting help and were "overrun", said trust chairman Adrian Whale.

While he was partly pleased with a Government announcement to pour $41 million over the next four years into emergency housing places and grants across the country, it was also "a worrying sign".

"My fear is that emergency housing becomes entrenched as the solution to this crisis," Mr Whale said.

The main challenge faced by the trust was finding places for people to go once they entered the trust's facilities - comprising seven family units and a house that could sleep six single men in Whangarei.

"The Government is acknowledging that [being] homeless is not the way life is meant to be lived. But it's finding pathways and places for families to go to next that causes the problem. While in the private sector the rents are going up," he said.

For the first time, the Government will pay for about 3000 emergency housing places across the country per year so people have access to a roof over their head.

In Northland, this meant 20 extra beds, which the Government had calculated as 80 places, if each person stayed for three months.

"On the face of it it's really good," Mr Whale said. "But unless it's part of a wider vision that puts housing as a fundamental human right in the long term, it isn't going to change what our families experience."

Emergency housing providers would tender for the funding. The first contracts with providers are expected to be in place by September.

Mr Whale said the places would be snapped up.

"I think we would be able to fill that easily," he said.

TTEHT was funded mainly by the Lotteries Commission, but received Government funding to employ a social worker.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said this month's Budget would fund 3000 places a year in emergency housing nationally at a cost of $41 million over four years, or about $10 million a year.

On the basis that people stay for an average of just under three months, the money will fund 360 beds in Auckland compared with about 120 now. Half will be for families and half for single people.

- Northern Advocate

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