After more than six years in the making, the Government's Housing First programme has now launched in Rotorua with one very big promise - to end homelessness once and for all.

"Five years ago, community agencies came together to look at the issue of homelessness and we quickly figured out that we weren't working together," said Lifewise Rotorua Service Manager, Haehaetu Barrett.

"In that time, we've held a lot of consultation meetings - central government, community services, families who are experiencing homelessness - and lobbied via events. We've had two big sleepouts in the last four years."

Housing First Rotorua is a partnership between Lifewise, Te Taumata O Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust and LinkPeople. It's the first iwi-led Housing First Collective in the country.


"All up it's probably taken a good six years of strong community networking and advocacy, so today has really kind of sparked and ignited the passion again of what we've been trying to cover for six years," Barrett said.

The biggest hurdle was convincing the Government that the problem was serious.

"I think here in the Bay we weren't seen as an issue, that we had this issue here. And we had to prove via a headcount last year in February that we had very high statistics for people rough sleeping.

"When the Government saw that, they had an understanding that something was going on in Rotorua," Barrett said. "We began to see some traction around motivating the model to become real here in Rotorua."

A pōwhiri was held at Rotorua's Te Papaiouru Marae at Ohinemutu to celebrate the launch.

"Our issue and barrier right now would be supply – we need to get our real estate agencies on board, promoting the programme to private property owners," Barrett said.

"When people are coming through these doors, we can quickly allocate them to a key worker, a property manager and a tenancy manger to get them into a house."

Staff at Rotorua Housing First come from a variety of backgrounds, some having their own experience of life on the streets.


"I was on the streets and homeless and Haehaetu gave me an opportunity," said Justin Carr, Peer Support Worker.

"I'm going to be helping other homeless people get motivated, get determined to help themselves."

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