The issue of homelessness raises difficult, uncomfortable questions for our society.

The questions are difficult because it is the first time in recent memory that we have been forced to confront them.

Homelessness in its modern form is affecting families. These are people with jobs who can no longer put a roof over their head because they have been priced out of the property market.

The Bay of Plenty Times has been covering this issue over the past few months and this week published the story about how a woman living in a caravan on a friend's lawn had to move out because she breached city rules by staying there for more than three months in a year.


Mount woman Judy Randell had to kick her friend out after neighbour Graham Hales complained to the council. He says the caravan was too close to the boundary fence, is in his opinion a 'disgrace' and he was annoyed by the friend's cat defecating on his property.

The complaint left officials with no option but to take action and leave the friend and her partner essentially homeless.

Miss Randell believes this is ridiculous. ''There's a massive housing crisis and I had to kick her out."

Others agree. The decision has been met with online outrage with plenty of people on the Bay of Plenty Times Facebook page criticising the council for its policy and lack of empathy as the city battles a housing and homelessness crisis.

Even more Facebook criticism was directed at Mr Hales.

In my opinion, Mr Hales is being hard hearted and should have shown more empathy given the woman's circumstances. It must be gut-wrenching for people to find themselves homeless and we as humans need to show compassion.

But Mr Hales is not responsible for the growing homelessness problem.

This responsibility, as he rightly points out, rests squarely with the Government.

Limited social housing, skyrocketing rents and rising property values are having a crippling effect on some sectors of our community.

The Bay of Plenty Times has covered this issue in its Hidden Homeless Series which received extensive feedback from the community with many groups stepping up to the plate including Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services that is accommodating homeless families in a building provided by Tauranga Moana Maori Trust.

But the problem is not going away.

Over the past week we have reported on a 13-year-old sleeping under a bridge with his family; houses packed with up to 15 people; transient student numbers - families forced to move because of housing issues and a report that found hundreds of Bay children were affected by homelessness.

Officials have placed some homeless families in motels but even then there have been instances where they have had to move out because of prior bookings.

In June this year, Tauranga MP and Cabinet minister Simon Bridges said the increase in homelessness was apparent although it was not always showing up in official statistics.

"It's incumbent upon the Government to step up," he said.

Yes, the Government does need to step up. Urgent action is needed to help solve this crisis.

Tauranga City Council also needs to urgently revisit the archaic rule around living in caravans to provide more flexibility in how it manages the issue and deals with complaints.

It is also important for people to show empathy for others who find themselves homeless.