Giving the homeless $5000 to move out of Auckland into homes in other regions sounds like a nice idea - or even like a Lotto win for some homeless.
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett announced a scheme to give homeless Aucklanders, or those in the city's state houses, a payment of up to $5000. The scheme was released on the eve of last Thursday's Budget and reeked a little of a last-ditch attempt to show the Government was committed to putting money towards the housing crisis.
No one really knows for sure whether John Key's lowest poll rating since becoming Prime Minister, out on Tuesday, had anything to do with it. The reason for Ms Bennett's announcement makes sense. There are empty Housing New Zealand houses in other parts of New Zealand. But practically speaking, most homeless in Auckland are not going to find a life they've always dreamed of by having an extra $5000 and a comfortable Housing NZ home in Huntly.
Homelessness has little to do with there not being enough homes. These people are often homeless because they can't function in homes. They might have mental health issues or addictions that make it physically and practically impossible for them to hold down jobs, or even manage their benefit payments in an orderly way that makes it possible to survive.
They reach a point where living on the streets, at different friends' houses or in cars becomes an easier and more practical method of survival. What is needed is help for the homeless - not cash and not homes. They need help to overcome their social problems and a roof over their head while being carefully supervised and taught how to become a functioning resident who can manage living in a home.
- Kelly Makiha is deputy editor of the Rotorua Daily Post