The Housing First programme, which aims to end homelessness with a "do whatever it takes" approach has been launched in Rotorua.

Minister of Māori development Nanaia Mahuta launched the programme today at Tunohopu Marae.

The programme, which will be delivered in a partnership between LinkPeople, Lifewise and Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Trust, was launched in recognition of World Homeless Day.

Inside the wharenui at Tunohopu this afternoon. Photo / Ben Fraser
Inside the wharenui at Tunohopu this afternoon. Photo / Ben Fraser

"Housing First is a proven, internationally recognised programme that supports the homeless with high and complex needs," Mahuta said.


"This partnership will be tackling homelessness head-on in Rotorua, with the aim of ending it completely, not just managing it."

The successful delivery will depend on the combined experience of LinkPeople and Lifewise, who are already delivering Housing First services in other regions, with the wisdom, expertise and local networks of Te Taumata.

"Earlier this year when the Homeless Count took place in Rotorua, a total of 48 people were found sleeping rough," Mahuta said.

"Since then, the demand for action has increased. Housing First is our response, and the focus is to make homelessness a thing of the past in Rotorua."

Lifewise Rotorua service manager Haehaetu Barrett said she had been "waiting and waiting" for this moment.

"I sat back on the couch last night and breathed a sigh of relief, like oh my God, we can finally do this for Rotorua."

She said the partnership was the real strength of the programme.

"To think we could do it individually, that would be stupid.

"The core driver in this programme is relationships and Rotorua is way too small not to work together."

Inside the wharenui at Tunohopu this afternoon. Photo / Ben Fraser
Inside the wharenui at Tunohopu this afternoon. Photo / Ben Fraser

The Housing First programme takes a "whatever it takes approach" and Barrett said that couldn't be done in isolation.

"We have tapped into existing relationships and pulled in the smaller partners to work together.

"The announcement today is to raise the community awareness fo the programme so they know this is an option."

The goal, she said, was to have the first people into a home by Christmas.


"We are looking to take people from the night shelter and transition them into this service, we don't want those people to just get lost in the gap."

Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue general manager Roanna Bennett said it was committed to driving social wellbeing and healthy housing was integral to that.

"Rotorua is facing a housing crisis and many of the people who are affected the most have whakapapa links to Te Arawa.

"An Iwi led response is appropriate for Rotorua and Te Taumata has the service track record and networks to deliver that."

She said the partnership with two nationally recognised organisations was exciting and they were a "good fit" for what they brought to the table.

"We expect to announce an opening date for the service within a few weeks."

LinkPeople chief executive Christine Hall said it was "really excited" to be involved in the partnership.

"We started delivering a service to Rotorua in July last year and in that time we've housed more than 200 families.

"Of that 80 per cent were into private housing, that's a great outcome, so we are already building relationships with landlords."

Hall said housing people "came with its challenges" but the hard part was tackling the longer term issues.

Housing First

What is it?

Housing First is a programme to address homelessness. The approach is to provide housing quickly then offer tailored support for as long as it's needed to help people stay housed and address the issues that led to their homelessness.

Who is Housing First for?
Housing First is an intensive programme for people who have been homeless a long time or frequently in and out of homelessness over a long time, and have multiple, high and complex needs - such as addiction, mental and physical health issues, experience of violence or abuse.

How does it work?
- Housing First providers reach out to homeless people with high, multiple and complex needs and also assess referrals/self-referrals.
- Support is ongoing and proactively offered, linked across agencies to meet each person's physical, mental health and other needs.
- Positive steps towards wellbeing include connecting to communities, iwi and whanau, learning and employment, and choices to reduce harmful behaviours.

Where does the funding come from?
The Ministry of Social Development.

Who is the Housing First provider in Rotorua?
Housing First will be provided through a partnership of LinkPeople, Lifewise and Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue.