Focus on housing homeless

By Aaron van Delden


Emergency housing for the homeless in Wanganui may soon be re-established.

A YMCA-led inquiry into the need for emergency housing is well under way, but indications are any scheme will need a joint approach.

Earlier this year, following the closure of the City Mission's refuge Project Jericho, the YMCA sent out surveys to nearly 100 organisations to test the demand for emergency accommodation in Wanganui.

Social service providers, church groups, the police and Work and Income were among the recipients of the questionnaire.

YMCA Central business development manager Sian Forster said the questionnaire would identify the sectors of the community most in need of emergency housing.

She said there had been a good response to the survey and a meeting of community groups on November 6 would collate the results and discuss plans for the future.

Ms Forster said the YMCA would consider establishing emergency housing, though it would need to be done in collaboration with other not-for-profit groups.

The City Mission was solely responsible for Project Jericho, and its co-ordinator John Paine said that meant it was left without much-needed support. The City Mission would not consider setting up another emergency housing scheme without partners.

Neil Hooker, an adviser to the City Mission board, said they received one inquiry a week, on average, for emergency accommodation.

The inquiries came mainly from single people, who were generally referred to Fern Lodge, Purnell House or Bignell St Motel. These were private establishments with tariffs, and Mr Hooker said that meant the homeless had to get financial help from Work and Incometo be housed.

Acting Senior Sergeant Andrew McDonald said police saw a need for emergency housing in Wanganui.

"By the time we deal with [the homeless], they are at their lowest point. The proverbial ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

"There are still people in our community that we deal with who do things out of desperation and need a helping hand, rather than a heavy hand," Mr McDonald said.

Ms Forster said providing accommodation was a fundamental part of the YMCA movement.

It was founded in London in 1844 to provide safe, low-cost accommodation for young men drawn to the city for work.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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