Apartment owners and businesses on a section of Hobson St say rough sleepers on their doorsteps have made the area a "living hell".

The residents say they face intimidation and threats and often witness violence and drug use outside their properties or have their entrances blocked.

The 525 residents of the Fiore Apartments on Hobson St have reached an impasse with the council and police, who have responded to specific complaints but were unable to move people on permanently or find a long-term solution.

Building and property manager Harpreet Singh said one of the retail properties in the complex had been vacant for two years because prospective tenants were put off by the people sleeping outside its doors. Landlords often ran into the same problem.


"The first question people ask is 'What about them?'. They are there, so we don't want to rent."

All of the five retail stores are currently vacant, though two had to close or move because of structural and design problems. One is soon to be tenanted by a convenience store.

Singh said residents were sympathetic to the homeless peoples' situation, and expected some noise given their location in the CBD and near the Auckland City Mission. But the behaviour went beyond noise, and included intimidation, drug use and violence.

Last month, a committee representing the apartment owners wrote to the council, police and Auckland City Mission asking for help.

"The conditions here, with filth and threats from them is a living hell for us," the committee said.

Auckland Council team manager compliance response Max Wilde said public safety bylaws did not give council powers to physically remove people. But it was able to ask people to move on if they were creating a nuisance or obstruction.

Homeless person sleeping outside on the footpath, along from the Auckland City Mission, in the Auckland CBD. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Homeless person sleeping outside on the footpath, along from the Auckland City Mission, in the Auckland CBD. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Council officers visited the site four times last year with police, Wilde said, and on one occasion they asked a homeless person to move on.

The Ministry of Social Development had primary responsibility for rough sleepers, and any matters involving drugs, violence or alcohol were for the police to handle.


The street has long been a place for rough sleepers, many of them bunking down on the footpath because they could not get a bed at the Auckland City Mission. The mission is undergoing a $90 million redevelopment to fit more beds and new addiction services.

General manager Helen Robinson said the only solution to the residents' predicament was finding permanent homes for all rough sleepers.

"Without being trite, that's what we are working towards. And until that happens, what that means is people will be sleeping publicly. As soon as you have people sleeping publicly and there is mixed use of spaces, it can be difficult for everyone to get what they need."

While the apartment owners felt the homeless problem had worsened in the last year and a half, the city mission believed numbers had been stable over that time.

That was partly the result of the Housing First programme, which places people straight into permanent homes rather than putting them in transitional shelters. Around 925 homeless adults and children have been housed since it was established in May 2017.

While there is no regular survey of homeless, a headcount in September found there were 800 people sleeping rough on Auckland's streets, and as many as 3000 using emergency or transitional shelters.


On the morning the Herald visited Hobson St, there was little sign of rough sleepers, except for one neatly-made bed outside a convenience store.

Singh said a group usually congregated in the evenings. She pointed out the signs of rough sleepers - graffiti on the walls and general mess outside shopfronts.

"We have called police many times," she said. "We feel we just can't do anything."