Kyra is the Rotorua Daily Post's police, emergency and court reporter.

'We desperately need housing'

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PHOTO/FILE
PHOTO/FILE

A local MP says progress is being made to help the growing numbers of homeless in Rotorua, but he believes there are many more struggling who are too shy to ask for help.

Waiariki MP and Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said he had acted as a catalyst to bring together community groups to try and tackle the issue.

"We have had two meetings and we have set up a base at a local marae to co-ordinate people coming through to try and get people into homes.

"We will have a catch up in another week or so and then we can get the numbers and see where we are at.

"I think it's going well. We have set up things like workshops for finding houses and finance."

He said there was a thought of opening marae up but he hoped people could be helped before it got to that stage.

"I suspect that there is still a lot of people still in the position of homelessness because they are to shy to come forward or they think they don't need help."

Love Soup Rotorua co-founder Elmer Peiffer said his group originally set out to provide meals for those in need, but it had now gone beyond that.

"We found they needed clothing and sleeping bags and tents. Then one man approached us to ask if we could find a house for him, then we went down that road.

"Now we have pretty much turned into a community agency. We used to have two to five families come in over the three days a week when we only opened for two hours a day.

"Now we get 15 families a day, all looking for housing so we have increased our hours.

"At this stage we have successfully housed nine families, plus three more in the last three days, making it 12. That's from July to present."

He said they still had 88 more families looking for homes, and those were only the ones sent to them through agencies.

"We desperately need housing, we need support agencies that can get people into housing and support them after they have been housed. A lot of them don't understand what their responsibilities are as a tenant or what the landlords responsibilities are.

"The costs of everything have risen. People can't afford housing. It's a flow on effect from Auckland. The rents have easily gone up between $50 to $100.

"At this stage what we need is temporary accommodation, if we had a plot of land that we could put up pop up shelters while they are doing house hunting that would be an effective approach."

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said as a leader it didn't give her any pleasure to know the city had a growing problem.

"I see it very much as a central government issue, but I have said we will develop a housing plan."

She said if central government was to provide funding she would be happy to sit down with them and make a plan.

"But, we can't be doing the job of Housing New Zealand. If we develop a housing plan then that will help take some pressure off. We need to build for the growth we are seeing," she said.

She said she had heard people say providing a block a land for those who slept in their cars could be a good idea, but she wasn't sure how practical that was.

"It's very difficult, there is definitely a policing issue and these people are usually very shy and discreet, I'm not sure they would even come," Mrs Chadwick said.

Haehaetu Barrett, service manager at Lifewise Mental Health & Addictions Services, said the problem of homelessness was huge in Rotorua, which is why the community had got together and launched the Rotorua Homeless Action Plan.

New Zealand's first community-based action plan to end homelessness, it was officially launched in February.

"Last year we dedicated five of our 17 beds to homeless, those beds are full right now. Here in Rotorua we forget to talk to each other. We need to work together."

She said the perception of homelessness needed to change, as often, it was full time workers and families in need of housing who could afford it but there was nowhere for them to go.

Labour spokesman for housing Phil Twyford held a meeting on the issue of homelessness earlier this week in Rotorua.

He said the issue started in Auckland and had moved into the regions and was only going to get worse.

"A decade ago a single wage earner could save enough to pay off a home. How far have we come? Forty-two thousand people in New Zealand are currently homeless. The Government needs to find a way of working with the community to solve this issue."

Deputy chief executive for social housing Nic Blakeley said the government had recently announced funding for 3000 emergency housing places per year, allocating $41.1 million over the next four years.

"Up to 800 emergency housing places can be occupied at any on time, with an expected maximum stay of three months. This will total more than 3000 places per year, though with both individuals and families housed, the total is likely to be higher."

He said the government had committed money and resources to coming up with an emergency housing model that, "a) directs funding where it is needed most, and b) allows us to track need far more effectively than agencies have in the past".

The Rotorua Daily Post asked how many people in Rotorua were currently in emergency housing and how much it was costing, but Mr Blakeley said he was unable to answer at this time.

"While the Ministry records what hardship assistance has been provided for accommodation, it does not separate out if that assistance is for emergency housing."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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