A newly refurbished hostel in central Auckland will provide 52 "badly needed" beds for homeless people as winter begins to bite, Mayor Phil Goff says.

The James Liston Hostel in Freemans Bay was reopened this evening after a $5 million renovation, which has transformed the 1970s building and expanded its capacity from 45 beds.

Goff said homelessness had worsened in the city over the last 10 years, and the hostel would offer immediate relief to some of the city's most vulnerable people.

The hostel provides warm, secure rooms, two meals a day, laundry services, and access to social services and drug and alcohol counselling. Tenants can stay for up to 12 weeks, but the council hopes it can find permanent housing for them before that point.

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Auckland Council's main response to homelessness is a programme called Housing First, which moves people directly from the street into permanent housing. So far, 1000 people have been housed through the programme over two years, mostly in private rentals.

Goff said there was still a need for emergency housing providers like the hostel which could provide short-term accommodation for rough sleepers.

A head count in September found there were an estimated 800 rough sleepers in wider Auckland, though numbers tend to rise during winter.

The actual number could be higher. Ministry of Housing and Urban Development figures show there are 4409 people on a waiting list for state or social housing in Auckland. Of that total, around a quarter are categorised as homeless.

The James Liston Hostel in Freemans Bay was reopened this evening after a $5 million renovation, which has transformed the 1970s building and expanded its capacity from 45 beds. Photo / Google
The James Liston Hostel in Freemans Bay was reopened this evening after a $5 million renovation, which has transformed the 1970s building and expanded its capacity from 45 beds. Photo / Google

The James Liston Hostel was opened in 1968 as a Working Men's Hostel, but it gradually fell into disrepair and had to be shut down.

Auckland Council provided $2 million for its restoration, and the rest was covered by Housing New Zealand and other sources. While the renovations took place, tenants were relocated to the nearby Greys Ave apartments.

Architect Terrence Barnes of Peddle Thorp - which was in charge of the refurbishment - said it was a challenging project because he could not change the building design and he had a limited budget.

"We've created additional rooms and also the feeling of more space by letting in more light, and used bright primary colours to help clients remember where their rooms and the facilities are."

The renovated hostel also includes a women's wing for the first time, with swipe cards for bedrooms and bathrooms.

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James Liston Trust chairwoman Dame Diane Robertson said she was proud of the work the trust had done to upgrade the facility.

"It is important that we provide accommodation that is warm, comfortable and welcoming. Our most vulnerable people need to be treated with compassion and respect."

Demand for emergency housing has skyrocketed in the last four years because of rising rent and housing prices.

Following a review in 2015, the National-led Government began funding it for the first time. Since then, the amount spent on emergency housing grants has steadily grown to nearly $100 million a year.