Although only in its infancy, the announcement of further Government funding for the Housing First programme has been welcomed in Rotorua.

The internationally-acclaimed programme was launched in Rotorua on April 30 this year following its national introduction in Hamilton in 2014 and a 2017 Auckland pilot.

Housing First is a collective response to homelessness. It offers people immediate access to housing with "wraparound" health and welfare services, as required, backing up the placements.

In a pre-budget announcement on Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government would spend almost $200 million on housing 2700 long-term homeless people. Some $197m has been allocated over four years - $103m to support the existing operation of Housing First and $94m for expansion.


Regional Manager for Lifewise Rotorua and Bay of Plenty, Haehaetu Barrett, said in the two weeks since the programme was launched, there had been a lot of stakeholder interest in Housing First.

Lifewise's Haehaetu Barrett. Photo / File
Lifewise's Haehaetu Barrett. Photo / File

"We have had a number of referrals from stakeholders working within local social services, mental health and addiction services and the smaller, individual providers.

"We have placed two housed two men and three are sitting in emergency transition at Lifewise."

Barrett said she was happy with the progress.

"Tomorrow night we are holding a dedicated event where Tāmati Coffey and I will address real estate agents and property managers about Housing First and what it will offer them."

She added that while potential Housing First clients had to meet strict criteria and the "most chronic" cases would be addressed first, others needing assistance from the services provided by Housing First would be able to access it.

"Basically it doesn't matter which door you knock on, help is available.

Barrett said the Government announcement was affirmation that there was 100 percent investment in the programme and all the complexities that come with the most vulnerable.


However Love Soup owner and operator Elmer Peiffer said he still had concerns about the programme.

"It is absolutely a good thing but, first and foremost, Rotorua needs houses for people to move into," Peiffer said.

"As I understand the programme, providers work with Housing First clients, landlords, real estate agents and health and welfare services to get people into homes and ensure they have help to remain in them.

"My concern is Rotorua simply doesn't have enough homes."

Peiffer said it seemed to be a generational problem that people had not learned (or been taught) the fundamentals of renting a home.

"I'm sure there are lots of people who don't read a tenancy agreement or understand it's contents - they just want a home. Hopefully the services provided by Housing First addresses things like this too."

Ardern described the additional funding as the largest Government investment ever in addressing chronic homelessness.

"We are committed to tackling homelessness. That's why we have made it an investment priority for the second year in a row by boosting support for the internationally-acclaimed programme Housing First even further."

Budget 2019 will provide funding to strengthen the programme in Tauranga, Rotorua, Whangarei, mid-far North, Auckland, Hamilton, Hawkes Bay, Wellington and the Hutt, Nelson, Blenheim and Christchurch.

Ardern said the Government was "well on track" to provide 6400 more public housing places by 2022.