"Critical" funding to get homeless out of the city's motels and given wraparound support has been welcomed by community leaders - yet some are raising questions.
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The Government announced yesterday a $300 million national funding package for emergency housing that included 1000 extra places for homeless families and individuals nationwide.
The package pledged to get homeless people out of motels and into transitional housing with a large portion also being spent on providing support services for those affected.
However, it was unclear at this stage where in the country the funding will go.
Last month, Rotorua was highlighted as one of six "homeless hotspots" and in November, community leaders claimed that the city had become a "slum" with central motels being overrun with beneficiaries.
The Rotorua Daily Post previously reported motels in Rotorua had earned more than $3.3m in just three months to put up homeless people and Ministry for Social Development clients were staying in more than 20 motels, backpackers and lodges in Rotorua.
Love Soup's Elmer Peiffer told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday there was a "desperate need" in Rotorua for more transitional housing because the homeless problem was only getting worse.
"I am really hoping they realise how much of a problem area Rotorua is for homeless ... this funding is critical to our city."
He said education programmes for those moving from emergency motel accommodation to housing would be vital.
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Those using emergency housing would need to start paying rent, but at a maximum rate of 25 per cent of their income.
Housing Minister Megan Woods said the Government initially planned to use motels as a stop-gap measure for temporary stays up to seven days, but the average length of stay had now ballooned to seven weeks.
"We will provide 1000 more transitional housing places by the end of the year in order to reduce the numbers on motels."
This new housing would cost $175m and be delivered nationally by the end of the year.
Rotorua's Visions of a Helping Hand Trust owner Tiny Deane raised questions about whether transitional housing would be built or bought and who would be providing the wraparound support services.
This was because he believed "every resource in this city is already so stretched".
He said this sort of funding could make a "huge, huge difference" to the city's critical homeless problem and he had been advocating for a long time to get people living in motels wraparound support as a stepping stone to get them out of the "toxic" environment.
There were hundreds of motel units filled with families who were not receiving adequate support, he said.
"A lot of them suffer greatly with their mental health ... some see no light at the end of the tunnel."
In the funding, $25.6m would be spent on a Sustaining Tenancies programme to give support such as budget advice and addiction support to those at risk of losing their rental.
Another $20m would be set aside to work with Māori to prevent homelessness and expand housing supply delivered by Māori, while $17.5m would support young people leaving Oranga Tamariki into accommodation with wraparound services.
A $16.3m boost would provide housing and wraparound support for acute mental health and addiction inpatients.
The Government said its new measures brought together a balanced package of immediate and longer-term actions to tackle homelessness.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said the city welcomed the announcement and was interested in how Rotorua could benefit.
She said discussions were already going on with the Government and other key stakeholders such as iwi to develop local solutions to address Rotorua's housing challenges.
"No one should be homeless and we want long-term solutions for our community. However, there is no magic silver bullet in addressing our housing challenges."
She said the response would take a combined Government and community effort.
Ronji Tanielu from the Salvation Army's social policy and parliamentary unit said as rental pressures and housing waiting lists continued to grow in the city, any policies that addressed these issues were welcomed.
However, his concern was with the city's hardworking non-governmental organisations that were already "overworked".
"Throwing money at an issue doesn't make it magically go away ... who will do the frontline work?"
He said he hoped plans would be put in place to ensure community advocates were given extra support to provide the newly funded wraparound services.
What do the city's MPs think?
Labour's Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey:
"By ramping up our existing efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness, this plan shows we have heard the voice of Rotorua and we are delivering. I will be working hard with our housing ministers, to ensure we get as many local people in need as possible out of local motels, and into local homes."
New Zealand First MP based in Rotorua, Fletcher Tabuteau: "Today's announcement is a band-aid on a long-term problem. It is absolutely necessary. It is not acceptable to have people 'living' in motels. It is expensive and unacceptable for the people themselves and the tourism infrastructure of Rotorua."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay: "Where was the plan we were promised two years ago before 300 Rotorua motel rooms became a Government dumping ground for the country's homelessness problem? It's extremely concerning that so many local people no longer feel safe and secure in the CBD. Rotorua needs real action from the Government that can deliver not merely announcements that will never be delivered on."
The $300 million package
• $175m to deliver 1000 additional transitional housing places by the end of 2020
• $25.6m extra to the Sustaining Tenancies programme to help those at risk of losing their rental with practical budget advice, property maintenance, and mental health and addiction support
• $20m to work with Māori to prevent homelessness and expand housing supply delivered by Māori
• $17.5m to support young people leaving Oranga Tamariki care into accommodation with wraparound support services
• $16.3m to help acute mental health and addiction inpatients transition into the community with housing and wraparound support
• $13.5m to pilot a rapid re-housing approach for people receiving Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants
• $19.8m to expand navigator support services for people in emergency housing longer than seven nights
• $8.7m for a new housing broker service to connect with local landlords and help more MSD clients secure private rental homes
• $740,000 to fund programmes to help people gain skills and confidence to secure and manage a private rental home
• $9.3m to support the wellbeing needs of children in emergency housing, such as paying for transport to school or early childhood education