A trickle of rough sleepers returning to Auckland streets is not a sign of rising homelessness, NGOs say.
However, they are bracing for a second wave of homelessness in the city as the recession starts to bite.
Charities which house and feed rough sleepers are concerned that rising demand for food banks and increased calls to social services could signal a surge in "new homeless" as Government subsidies start to dry up.
NGOs quietly celebrated in May when rough sleeping was virtually eliminated in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
All but a handful of rough sleepers were placed into hotels, motels and Airbnb properties which were vacant because of the sudden drop in tourism and international students.
Lifewise CEO Jo Denvir said that achievement had been maintained over the last three months: "Everyone who needs to be housed has been housed".
Auckland CBD residents have noticed that some homeless have returned to the streets on Hobson Street and Queen Street in the last week.
Denvir said they were likely to be people who were housed in motels, but had come out during the day to "hustle" or get some fresh air before returning to their rooms. She noted that a handful of people had not been housed during the pandemic because of chronic addiction or mental health problems.
The immediate concern is what happens next. Permanent homes need to be found for those in motels. The Government has guaranteed motel places until June at a cost of $107m to allow "breathing space" for homes to be found.
So far, Lifewise has placed 20 homeless into long-term rentals. While the demise of Airbnb over lockdown freed up some rental properties, they tended to be single-bedroom or studio apartments, which were not suitable for homeless families.
It can also be hard to convince some private landlords to take on tenants from the street - even though NGOs provide social services, maintenance, and guaranteed rent.
But that was not the most pressing concern. There are signs that a wave of "new homeless" could be on the horizon.
"We're optimistic that we're going to house more people than we have been able to pre-Covid because there are gaps in the market around international students and overseas visitors," Denvir said.
"What we're not confident about is the new homeless that we are bracing ourselves for."
Calls to Lifewise about housing had steadily risen since the second lockdown began in Auckland, including working people who had never been engaged with social services before.
Demand for food parcels - which can be an indicator of homelessness - was soaring at various charities.
The Auckland City Mission reported earlier this month that demand for food parcels had jumped by 175 per cent compared to last year.
"We have been seeing a mix of new and existing people needing our assistance," City Missioner Chris Farrelly said at the time. "Many people had lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced as a result of Covid-19. The school programmes, which families relied on, were no longer available during lockdown."
A lift in rough sleepers will place pressure on the social housing list, which already stands at 18,500 - up from 16,300 when Covid arrived in New Zealand. The Coalition Government's goal is to build 14,400 new social houses by 2024, while also increasing transitional housing.
Mangere East Family Services CEO Pete Sykes said there were also "invisible" homeless in the city.
"Mangere has a different demographic of homelessness - people go from garage to garage or garage to car, or move around, in with their partner, out with their partner. They're still there."
He said that nearly every apartment complex and motel in Mangere was filled with either homeless or people in managed isolation.
It had an unfortunate knock-on effect. Motels and hospitality were one of the big employers in the suburb. But providing managed isolation and emergency housing required fewer staff, and many casual workers had been laid off.
And because they were casual workers, they did not qualify for the Government's new Covid Income Relief Payment - a more generous benefit for people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.