Budget announcements have been trickling out of the Beehive since 13 April, and today it was the turn of the suddenly homeless to get a serving: 3000 emergency housing places/year, $41.1 million over 4 years for emergency housing & grants to non-government organisations.
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said today the bulk of the $41.1 million of new operating funding would be used in 2 ways:
- The Ministry of Social Development will contract non-government organisations to provide about 3000 emergency housing places/year, and
- A new emergency housing special needs grant to support individuals & families with the cost of emergency housing for up to 7 days if they are unable to access a contracted place.
The new places will be available to anyone who can demonstrate they have a genuine need for emergency housing.
Mrs Bennett expected the first contracts with providers to be in place by September.
On my count, at $10.275 million/year, the 3000 places/year will average $3425 each – in Auckland, a snip compared to Quotable Value Ltd’s latest average house price valuation of $942,760 (up 16.5% in a year and up 72.5% since 2007), the Real Estate Institute’s median house sale price in March of $820,000 (up 14% in a year & 9.3% in the last month), and the Government’s Tenancy Services figures on rents charged by tenancy bondholders in the last 6 months. In the first suburb on the Tenancy Services list in Auckland, Avondale, the latest rental figures start with a median $480/week, $262/week for a one-bedroom flat, $200/week for a room.
Mrs Bennett said: “Our government made a commitment to provide better access to emergency housing for our most vulnerable citizens. Emergency housing providers told us accessing funding to provide these places was difficult so now, for the first time, emergency housing will have ongoing, dedicated funding.”
Begging pushes long-term homelessness in your face
Emergency housing support is distinctly different from long-term homelessness, which has raised its head as a mainstreet issue as the number of beggars increases on Queen St, in particular.
Homelessness is on the agenda of Auckland Council’s regulatory & bylaws committee this Tuesday morning, primarily to get a review of the public safety & nuisance bylaw underway.
It was also on the agenda of the council’s community development & safety committee agenda on 30 March, when update reports on council efforts & its homelessness budget were presented, and it was on the agenda of the council’s city centre advisory board last year, when the debate veered between “cleaning up” & “helping”.
New York lifts multi-faceted support for homeless
The Auckland approach has been disjointed, quite different from the approach in New York by campaign group Breaking Ground (which changed its name from Common Ground last year). In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $US20 billion plan for affordable housing, supportive units, emergency shelter beds & other homeless services, and Breaking Ground reacted positively: “We see supportive housing transform lives every single day. We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership & dedication to helping the most vulnerable & at-risk New Yorkers who will now have safe, stable, affordable homes and access to the critical support services they need to succeed.”
In April, Breaking Ground president & chief executive Brenda Rosen gave details of the group’s role in advancing the city council’s HOME-STAT initiative, first by expanding its street outreach programmes: “One of the aims of HOME-STAT is to assist not only those who have been living the longest time on our city’s streets (the chronically homeless) but also the episodically homeless, who are more likely to have lost their housing due to economic factors like a layoff or unaffordable rent. Breaking Ground’s partnership with the city is adding over 140 dedicated staff to help us serve all homeless New Yorkers.
“We’ve been actively engaged in hiring & training these new outreach staff over the last several months, preparing teams for the incredibly challenging but incredibly important & rewarding work of helping New York’s street homeless.
“Second, we’re adding new transitional housing resources. These new units will offer lifesaving shelter along with services for some of our community’s most entrenched homeless. Third, we will open & operate two 24-hour drop-in centres, one in Brooklyn & one in Queens, where street homeless individuals can seek help, whether temporary (showers, meals, respite from heat or cold) or more substantive assistance (meeting with case managers to apply for permanent housing, for example.)
Breaking Ground’s Manhattan director of its Street to Home programme, Bill Hughes, said the organisation had helped over 12,000 New Yorkers escape & avoid homelessness over the last 25 years. We’re confident that the investment in HOME-STAT and in our programmatic expansion will help us serve even more homeless individuals.
The NZ way: Stand back
In New Zealand, there is an inclination to expect both the Government & the council to “do something” when an issue arises, less of an expectation for anyone else to lead, or act at all. Non-government organisations have been hampered by financial strictures and the uncertainty over what course the public bodies might follow, and it is those who have nothing who’ve filled the void by holding out their hand for help and posing the question: What kind of city is this?
Regulatory & bylaws committee agenda 10 May 2016
Agenda item 11, Update on begging behaviour in the central city
13 Update on bylaws development and information on the 2016/17 work programme
Auckland Council community development & safety committee agenda 30 March 2016
13, Update on Auckland Council’s activity to address homelessness
Update on social & affordable housing activities
14, Update on long-term plan homelessness budget activity
New York homeless support group Breaking Ground (ex-Common Ground)
Budget 2016 announcements
29 November 2006: Initiative opens to reduced cbd rough sleeper numbers
13 November 2005: Council adopts new role to lead change for city’s rough sleepers
1 March 2005: Better homeless economics
28 February 2005: Forum sets path to improve lot of homeless
11 December 2004: New forum on homeless
Attribution: Ministerial release, council documents, Breaking Ground.