Project lead Julie Nelson said the findings from the report A stocktake of New Zealand’s Housing re-affirm the Housing First Auckland collective’s view that no single organisation, agency, service, department or sector can end homelessness working alone.

She said the report’s findings were not surprising and highlighted the fact that more work needed to be done to ensure a systems-wide, and multi-agency and sector approach was taken.

“Our position has always been clear.  It is very important that we all work together to develop a Government-led housing strategy for New Zealand that incorporates policy, funding and practice so that we can understand how to collectively end homelessness, and so that organisations can work to their strengths as part of that strategy,” Ms Nelson said.

She said the evidence shows the most effective way to end chronic homelessness is to provide immediate access to permanent housing with ongoing wrap-around support to ensure people can maintain their tenancies. This approach underpins Housing First.

“Housing First is an important part of a whole-of-systems approach to ending chronic homelessness.  Emergency and transitional housing have an important place in a systems-approach, but it is very important people don’t get stuck there. Their purpose is a short-term response before people can move on to sustainable, permanent housing, with support if it is required.”

Ms Nelson said the Government has recently invested more funding in Housing First services across the country – which was welcome news for many regions struggling with increasing numbers of people sleeping rough, but as the report highlighted, Government funding is currently weighted towards temporary emergency housing.

She said the five providers in the Housing First Auckland collective agreed that fundamental systems change was needed in order to end homelessness.

“In our view, these changes would include: allocating consistent resourcing to the right places where it will be most effective in helping people; managing by inclusion, rather than exclusion; more services sharing more information about the people they are working with; accepting into service practice that housing is a health issue; and ensuring Housing First is a guiding principle across all agencies and services, regardless of the sector, for example in mental health, addiction and prison services.”

She said the collective would like to see Housing First put into housing policy – which has been proven to work in Canada and Finland, where chronic homelessness is being effectively addressed.

She said people were often surprised to learn that over the past year most of the housing that has been sourced for participants in the Housing First Auckland programme was from the private rental market, and that it wasn’t a scarcity of housing that was the issue – but more often the appropriateness of housing size.

“Landlords are an incredibly important partner for Housing First services and we work with them all – private, government and non-government – to source homes for the people we work with.

“Property managers from services in the collective tell us that it is not so much that they can’t find homes to rent, they do an amazing job of building relationships with landlords and finding properties, but often there are not enough smaller homes in the market, such as standalone 1 and 2 bedrooms. Our collective would certainly like to see more investment in building smaller homes for single people who have been chronically homeless, such as those who have been sleeping rough.”

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