Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Call out for tower to house homeless

The council vacated its former HQ in the central city in 2014. Photo / Richard Robinson
The council vacated its former HQ in the central city in 2014. Photo / Richard Robinson

A social worker working with Auckland's growing homeless population says the vacant former Civic Administration Building should be used to house some of the homeless.

Michelle Kidd of Te Rangimarie Trust said the Government should use some of an extra $41 million announced yesterday for emergency housing to reopen a central city night shelter in the old 22-storey tower, which the council moved out of in 2014.

The former night shelter was closed in 2012.

"If there is a building that is unoccupied and belongs to the council, I would like that considered as a night shelter. I'm thinking about the old council building," she said.

"If you think about the women and children in cars who have no accommodation, those children are going to school having to wash in public lavatories.

"Think of the people who find themselves in prison because they can't go home because they have no family or non-molestation orders have been made."

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 actual beds in Auckland compared with about 120 at present.

Canterbury will get 100 beds, with 60 each for Waikato, Bay of Plenty, East Coast/Hawkes Bay and Wellington and 100 elsewhere.

Half will be for families and half for single people.

A Cabinet paper says the target group will be about 5000 people living on the street or in "improvised dwellings" including 76 social housing applicants who were living in cars last September, 18 who were living in tents and 146 who were sleeping rough.

Dame Diane Robertson, who chairs the James Liston Trust which operates a 40-bed hostel in Freemans Bay, said she hoped the new funding would rescue the hostel which is operating on capital raised from the sale of the former night shelter.

"It needs a new roof at $450,000, so it would have to go into capital," she said.

But she doubted that the Civic Administration Building would be suitable for a night shelter because of asbestos problems.

- NZ Herald

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