Councillors have called for investigations into using council properties as emergency housing to combat Tauranga's "beast of a problem" - homelessness.

The steering group created to tackle Tauranga's hidden homelessness presented to the community and culture committee yesterday.

Chairman Terry Molloy pitched the idea to use empty council properties for emergency housing and was backed up by committee members as an item for staff to follow up.

He said there were some properties available and it could be a huge positive to tackling homelessness in the city.


Steph O'Sullivan led the presentation and spoke about the multi-agency group's activities over the past eight months and its plans to tackle the "beast" that is homelessness in Tauranga.

To date, the group had raised the profile of the issue, presenting to MPs' Cross-Party Inquiry into Homelessness last year and commissioned research resulting in 'The Hatch Report'.

"We had anecdotal evidence, but it had not been pulled together. No one had any data," Ms O'Sullivan said.

The report was a snapshot of homelessness in Tauranga, undertaken by Waikato University student Rachel Hatch.

Concrete data on the number of homelessness was still missing, but some of the key findings were:

- Women and children were the most invested in hiding their homelessness due to fear of Child Youth and Family involvement
- There is a lack of emergency accommodation for women and children
- The presence of a Men's Shelter has given single men an element of housing security in the short-term.

The steering group's plans were to do further research into housing needs and housing supply - including looking at why there were so many "ghost houses" around Tauranga.

Ms O'Sullivan said they would explore a "housing hub" concept similar to Hamilton.

Hamilton's People's Project was a central hub where many different agencies came together. It operated on a housing first model - putting a roof over heads first then fixing problems that led to homelessness.

She said they had put a bid in for strategic funds from Bay Trust for such a project.

Supporting Accessible Properties, which won the bid to manage Tauranga social housing stock last year, was also crucial for the group.

"Housing NZ has done a shocking job here; they have not served the community. Getting behind Accessible Properties will make a real difference in providing housing," Ms O'Sullivan said.

Tommy Wilson, of Te Tuinga Whanau, said apathy towards homelessness was the enemy.

The investigation into council properties sounded like a positive step in the right direction, he said.

"Collaboration is what it's all about - we can only do so much, we need others to help and the good news is council is taking those steps.

"There's no one better to solve community problems than the community itself.

"We have to clean up our own backyard adn we are doing it and we can keep doing it."

Mr Wilson also challenged Maori to "walk your talk" and take care of their own, as Maori were unproportionately represented in homeless numbers.

Whare Tauranga was supported by the Tauranga Moana Trust but Mr Wilson challenged more Maori to help beat homelessness.

- The Tauranga Homelessness Steering Group was formed in June 2016 so that the different agencies could combine their efforts, use collective expertise and work together to address homelessness and emergency housing needs.

- The group works with Tauranga City Council, Ngati Ranginui, Housing NZ, Ministry of Social Development, Te Tuinga Whanau, Te Puni Kokiri, NZ Police, Bay of Plenty District Health Board, Salvation Army, Tauranga Community Housing Trust, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and SociaLink.

- Community and culture committee members are Cr Terry Molloy, Cr Leanne Brown, Cr Kelvin Clout, Cr Bill Grainger, Cr Steve Morris, Cr Catherine Stewart and Mayor Greg Brownless. It ensures council meets the changing needs of our community.
Bay of Plenty Times articles on homelessness:
Tauranga's homeless problem at 'crisis point'
Dealing with homelessness in Tauranga
Two more homes for homeless in Tauranga will be open for business by winter
Tauranga's homeless resort to sleeping in public toilets
Homeless woman kicked out of caravan after complaint