National will put $27 million toward Auckland City Mission's plans for a $75 million housing complex for the homeless in central Auckland.

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Prime Minister Bill English has revealed one of his own relatives had slept on the streets, giving him personal experience in the difficulties of resolving chronic homelessness.

The Government will put $27 million towards Auckland City Mission's plans for a $75 million housing complex for the homeless in central Auckland.

Setting out the homelessness announcement, English said his goal was to completely eliminate "rough sleeping" - but he knew from personal experience that this was challenging.

He said one of his own relatives had been a rough sleeper. "No one was able to keep him in a house, despite many efforts.

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"I've had the personal experience of dealing with some of the conditions of homelessness. It's a very difficult problem to solve."

English and Social Housing Minister Amy Adams announced the plan to give money to the mission this morning, as well as expand the Housing First project to help homelessness to include Christchurch, Tauranga and Wellington.

The Government has faced flak over homelessness and the announcement during an election campaign is aimed at trying to address any perception it has let the issue get away on it.

English said the announcements were the result of several years' work and the decision to work with those in need on an intensive one-on-one basis.

"You can get your arms around these problems if you see the individuals."

The City Mission aims to redevelop its central Auckland premises into 80 new studio and one-bedroom units.

English said $18m would be provided upfront and the rest as required. The City Mission and wider Auckland community would cover the remainder of the $75 million cost.

The Government would also provide an income-related rent subsidy to those in the units, expected to take total funding to $78 million over 25 years.

He said the 25-year commitment meant the Mission was not reliant on year-by-year grants and could ensure it was sustainable and had the flexibility to deal with tenants in the way it felt best to change their lives.

The complex rebuild is due to begin next year and be completed by mid-2020.

Auckland City Mission chief executive Chris Farrelly said the redevelopment would include health services and detox facilities as well as the 80 units for the homeless.

He said the Government's $27 million amounted to 50 per cent of the cost of building the units.

He said the community had always supported City Mission and it was not starting from zero.

"We've been working on this for a decade."

The plans were started in 2009 but shelved because of the global financial crisis.

"There's been an immense amount of work and preparation, so we've got money already in hand and now we're going to go out and find the rest."

He said the $27 million was what the Mission had applied for, and the 25-year commitment to pay the income-related rent subsidy for the 80 units was a critical part of the agreement.

"Given the amount of homelessness we've got we will fill those units immediately, many, many times over.

"From a business planning perspective, that's essential. Often you build a building and can't operate it and this is going to give us the ability to operate over those 25 years."

He said the cause of homelessness was complex.

The Housing First expansion, also announced by the Government today, will provide support for up to 450 more people facing chronic homelessness and is aimed at getting people sleeping on the streets into homes and provide them with broader help to get their lives on track.

Adams said it had been successful in Hamilton and Auckland and the extra places would benefit Tauranga, Christchurch and Wellington as well.

The places would be allocated as follows:

• 100 to Auckland on top of the 472 already provided
• Up to 100 in Christchurch
• Up to 100 in Tauranga
• Up to 150 in Wellington, including Lower Hutt.

Adams said the Government had set aside $16.5 million in the Budget to expand the programme to areas of high need. In the first few months of the Auckland Housing First Initiative between the Government and Auckland Council, about 150 people had been helped off the streets.

"Many of our chronically homeless are grappling with complex problems such as mental health issues or addiction to drugs or alcohol. Housing First quickly moves rough sleepers into appropriate housing and then immediately provides wraparound services to address the issues that led to their homelessness."