A one-night count of Rotorua's homeless has found 48 people sleeping rough in our city - not counting those being housed for the night by agencies.

The Rotorua Homeless Headcount took place on February 26.

A group of 34 volunteers from Lifewise, LinkPeople, Rotorua Lakes Council and more went searching for people in homeless hotspots and asked them why they were there, as well as questions to paint a picture of the demographics.

Of the 48 people who were counted on the night, 17, or about a third, were Maori who identified as being Te Arawa, said Lifewise Rotorua service manager Haehaetu Barrett.


"This fact highlights not only the importance of the street count but also the importance of developing a response that is not top-down but collaborative from all walks of life across our communities," Barrett said.

"That is why seeing members of iwi and hapu joining us at the street count is so heartening. Already we are seeing the beginnings of a collaborative approach to tackling homelessness."

There were at least another 36 people and families housed for the night by government and community agencies, according to LinkPeople.

Barrett said she was happy with how the count had gone, given it was a first for Rotorua. She was particularly pleased with the turnout of volunteers from all walks of life.

Other insights the headcount offered were into the age of those rough sleeping, which ranged from under 20 to those in their 50s.

Rough sleepers were also asked their reasons for being homeless.

"A lot of drivers were around substance abuse, so alcohol or drugs, mental health, family conflicts, debt."

Barrett said that aligned with a recent report which outlined the five biggest issues facing the district as drug and alcohol abuse, cost of living, availability of jobs, poverty and homelessness, and planning for the district's growth.


The Ministry of Social Development's deputy chief executive of housing, Scott Gallacher, said the number of Rotorua people on the social housing register was rising - from 43 in December 2015 to 143 in December 2017.

He said as at the end of 2017, the number on the register identified as being in insecure housing was 64. Of those four were homeless.

"We're aware that not everyone who is homeless reaches out to us for help and this makes it difficult to report on actual numbers," Gallacher said.

"We are not able to provide a definitive number of people who are living on the street – in Rotorua or anywhere else. We want to emphasise when anyone reaches out to us, we do everything we can to help them."

LinkPeople chief executive Christine Hall said homelessness was a complex issue.

"Homelessness is more than just people sleeping rough on the streets or in cars. It includes whanau living in temporary motel accommodation, and people in cells or inpatient units with no address to go to when they're released," Hall said.

"Conducting a street count, combined with our knowledge of local services and the community, helps us start to understand the scale of the problem and the services and support people need."

Hall said a solution to homelessness required collaboration.

Barrett agreed and said she was finally seeing cohesion around addressing the issue.

The Homelessness Governance Group has been working on the issue since the formation of the Rotorua Homeless Action Plan in 2015.

Gallacher said the ministry was eager to collaborate with a range of organisations in the community and housing sector to develop solutions.

"This is not something we can tackle on our own. It's vital that we partner with other agencies, organisations and housing providers who are skilled and resourced to help us end homelessness."

Last week the ministry announced plans for eight new state houses for the city by June.

A service map is also being produced to show homeless where services are available.

The results
- One night, Monday, February 26.
- 48 homeless people counted on the streets.
- Of those 40 per cent were Maori.
- 36 people and families housed for the night by government and community agencies.
- 77 per cent were male, 15 per cent female, 8 per cent undisclosed.
- People had been homeless for up to 17 years. Half did not disclose how long they had been homeless.
- From under 20 to between 50 and 60 years old.
- Key factors: substance abuse, mental health, family conflicts, debt.