The number of people sleeping rough within 3km of Auckland's Sky Tower has jumped to 91, the highest since annual counts began four years ago.
A team of social workers and volunteers found 74 men, seven women, and 10 whose gender couldn't be determined, sleeping in doorways, under bridges and in rough shelters around the city. A further 604 people were in the Airedale St night shelter, other hostels for the homeless and boarding houses within the 3km radius.
The latest count, on the night of Sunday, June 22, compares with only 65 rough sleepers and 69 in other short-term accommodation last year. But that survey did not cover boarding houses.
The leader of Auckland City Mission's crisis care team, Wilf Holt, said the increase might be because the counting team was becoming better skilled, with a fulltime outreach worker for the past year who had learned where to find people.
"Or it could be due to the general cost of living and the living situations people are finding themselves in and difficulties in finding suitable accommodation," he said.
As in all three previous counts, most of the rough sleepers were Maori or Pacific people - 61 per cent in 2004, 58 per cent in 2005, 52 per cent last year and 56 per cent in the latest count.
But they have become gradually older. Those over 40 have grown from under 30 per cent - of those whose age could be determined in the first two counts - to 47 per cent last year and 58 per cent this year.
Mr Holt said this was partly because older people were easier to find, so their number had grown as the skills of the finders had improved.
"There is a huge fluidity ... of the young ones - one day they're there, the next day they're gone," he said.
"The older guys are pretty consistent. They are a little bit more visible, and let's face it, at 41 to 50 if you are not well set in a career by that stage it's very hard to get into one."
He said state and community agencies were now working more closely together to help homeless people into housing. The Auckland District Health Board has stationed mental health workers in the former Methodist Mission in Airedale St, now known as Lifewise, and the city council has helped to fund the City Mission's outreach worker.
In the past month Housing New Zealand has introduced what Mr Holt called "taster tenancies" of up to three months to ease homeless people into state houses or flats, cutting the risk of taking on potentially difficult people.
"To date we have found them really successful and I think that has the ability to soothe the fears of the tenancy manager," he said.
The survey found that the 22 boarding houses included in the count had 267 vacant beds on the night of the count, indicating that all 91 rough sleepers could have been accommodated if suitable social work and mental health support had been available.
2004 - 64
2005 - 81
2007 - 65
2008 - 91