Buddy up. Build more homes. Target our healthcare. The things that could help Hawke's Bay's homeless community seem so simple on paper but become oh so complex off it. Gianina Schwanecke reports.
Shirley Lammas doesn't see Hawke's Bay's housing crisis through a lense clouded by doom and gloom.
It's tough out there, but the pandemic has forced institutions to confront the problem head on, and she's hopeful.
Lammas is the general manager of Whatever It Takes Trust, which provides a range of community support services, particularly focused on mental health and addiction issues.
During the first lockdown in 2020, the trust was approached by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to help it put the homeless into motels.
As a result, the region's 'Homeless Network' was created.
Comprising of groups like Civil Defence, Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Eastern District Police and the Ministry for Social Development, Lammas found they were suddenly housing a broad spectrum of people, each with unique needs.
"We had the people that were couchsurfing, living with whanau in the backroom, in the garage; people living in their cars; the fisherman who doesn't need a fixed abode but stays with people when he's back in.
"Then there were the people who had already been through emergency transitional housing and it's fallen over. And they're back in the churn again.
"Then we have the chronic homeless - anyone who's been homeless for more than 12 months."
While getting people into accommodation meant they had a roof over their head, she acknowledged it was not always easy and involved its own restrictions.
"If you're in emergency or transitional housing you're homeless. It's a holding pattern."
Lammas said she knew of some who still chose to sleep in their car because they wouldn't be able to have a pet in the motel.
Hawke's Bay Today's 'No Fixed Abode' series has highlighted the challenge a lack of an address can pose, particularly in accessing healthcare services.
Analysing coroners' reports as part of a University of Waikato study last year, Dr Sandrine Charvin-Fabre found the life expectancy for the homeless was "dramatically less" due to health inequalities.
Although the mortality rate varies between studies, homeless people typically die 15 to 30 years younger than their housed counterparts.
Similarly, Hastings midwife Jean Te Huia says pregnant women without a fixed abode struggle to access antenatal care until after their critical first trimester.
The women she's seen are struggling to get GPs because of a significant shortage of them in the region.
Lammas said 'hassle-free clinics' the trust help run for the homeless were designed to help address these barriers.
The community also faces issues relating to civic participation. Though there are no legal barriers stopping those without a fixed abode in the region from voting, the practicalities mean many will have given up trying, Victoria University's Dean Knight commented.
While Lammas said she couldn't speak about on voting specifically, she found through the Covid-19 response that the community didn't access media in the same way.
The same was likely to be true for local elections. Traditional mediums such as television, radio and online platforms only worked if people had access to the technology, she said.
"They're not getting the messages.
"You have a cohort of the population who only hear things via other mechanisms."
When the region entered a second lockdown this year, this time there were no motels.
It brought the various groups closer together and highlighted a need for a Hawke's Bay regional approach.
"Covid-19 has provided us with an opportunity to see what we did well and how we can expand on that.
"This is about the community being involved in this. This is a 'we', this is an 'us'."
She said there was "no discrimination" when it came to homelessness and it could happen to anyone.
Small-time investors de-investing in properties meant people who had been "good tenants" in private rentals could suddenly find themselves without a home.
Finding accommodation and creating more housing opportunities was important but Lammas emphasised that it's more "complex" than that.
"Yes, it's about putting someone in a house. But for some, popping them in a house and walking away means that within a certain period of time they will be homeless again."
She pointed to the Hastings place-based approach as an exemplar of a community approach - "it's a game-changer".
Despite the challenges facing the homeless community in Hawke's Bay, Lammas says she's "hopeful".
"There are lots of things that are at different stages in that continuum of solutions for our homelessness.
"As they come to fruition, I'm very optimistic that things will start to improve."