- Housing shortage sees people living in cars, garages and overcrowded homes

- Agencies, MP worried about homeless in our city

Key Points:

A COUPLE sleeping under a loading dock because they couldn't find a rental property in Rotorua is just one of a number of calls that have "inundated" a local MP's office. It comes as a district councillor has floated the idea of opening up community halls to provide temporary accommodation for those who have nowhere else to go. Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell held a meeting yesterday with social services agencies about the widening and growing problem of homelessness in Rotorua and to gather "intel" ahead of finding solutions. He said it went well, but there was a bit of "homework" to be done and they would be having another meeting shortly. Mr Flavell said the housing issue was affecting Rotorua and the wider Bay of Plenty, and the meeting was to find out more about the local situation. "My electorate office has been inundated with people asking me about housing." He said a wide range of people were affected - from single people to solo parents with four children. He said while everyone wanted to help they weren't linking up whanau with the right support. "People shouldn't be ashamed to ask for help." In his Rotorua Daily Post column this week, Mr Flavell said there were families living in cars and garages, or living with friends and other families in crowded conditions, because they were unable to secure housing. "The issue of homelessness has always been around, however there is now a huge shortage across the Bay of decent housing." The shortage of housing is a growing national issue - on Thursday night an estimated 1000 people took part in a Park Up For Homes event in South Auckland, to show empathy with those who have to live in their cars. And over in Tauranga, the Bay of Plenty Times reports today that desperate families are living in cars, garages and tents as the city's housing crisis reaches "diabolical" levels. Rotorua district councillor Charles Sturt recently approached the mayor to look at the possibility of opening up halls to help provide temporary accommodation for those who have nowhere else to go. Mr Sturt said he was trying to pull together various groups to "get some action" on the problem. Read more:Nowhere to go for Rotorua mum with seven children He said while it wasn't a council problem, he was working closely with the mayor to look at possible solutions. Mayor Steve Chadwick said she had spoken with Mr Sturt about opening up community halls and although she thought it was a kind gesture, it was not practicable as it would require systems and many people to run. "It's only one of many options we should consider and I believe the council's People Portfolio should also be involved. "We'll be looking at assessing the need in our community and what's being done, and then we can look at how council can support or contribute.

Homelessness and housing are really complex and multi-faceted issues and council would be looking to collaborate with or support potential solutions that are long-term, rather than short-term
Steve Chadwick
"Last year the council signed a memorandum of agreement with the Rotorua Homeless Steering Group and we support the work they are doing, under the leadership of Lifewise, who I understand staff will be meeting with in the near future." The Rotorua Homeless Action Plan, New Zealand's first community-based action plan to end homelessness, was officially launched in February. Haehaetu Barrett, service manager at Lifewise Mental Health & Addictions Services, said the problem of homelessness was huge in Rotorua, which is why the community had got together and launched the plan. "Lifewise is continuing to follow the plan we have put in place in small ways, along with the other community agencies involved. "We are providing some short-term accommodation for people who are struggling. All of our beds are full but we housed two people last week, which doesn't sound like much but it freed up two beds for two more people. "We are really wanting to get the plan out there and will be organising another Big Sleep Out which will be held on October 10, the location is yet to be decided. "The plan is not going to end it straight away but it's a place to start." She said the working party had plans to meet with Te Arawa Lakes Trust and Rotorua Lakes Council later this month to discuss the issue. Liz Tai, a social worker with Salvation Army Community Ministries, said homelessness was a big problem within Rotorua. "There is a struggle for single people, small families and big families as well, there's just not enough housing in Rotorua. We have to do a lot of emergency accommodation and hope and pray that we find people places." Mrs Tai said they had people who gave donations for homeless people and every bit helped. Additional reporting by Rebecca Malcolm

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