NZCCSS member agencies in Auckland continue to lead the way in responding to homelessness in Auckland. The launch in March of the Auckland Housing First initiative is a collaboration driven by LifeWise, the Auckland City Mission along with VisionWest, Affinity Services and Wise Group’s LinkPeople and funded through MSD and the Auckland City Council. The plan is to house 472 homeless Aucklanders currently living on the streets or close to ending up homeless over the next two years. Government funding of 3.7 million and another $1 million from Auckland Council is being spent to help people get off the streets and into housing they can stay in longer term.

LifeWise CEO Moira Lawler spoke about the project at the launch, about the challenges of delivering results in the two year timeframe for the work. An exciting aspect of the project is developing a kaupapa Māori framework for Housing First. More than half of those living rough are identified as Māori. Rau Hoskins from Te Matapihi, spoke about the importance of Māori looking after Māori and the ownership and manakitanga of Auckland iwi such as Ngati Whatua for the project, linking to papakainga housing projects and other iwi supports. Another core aspect of Housing First is involving those people who are homeless or have experience of homelessness in designing and working on the programmes and some aspects of this work are featured on the LifeWise website.

The Auckland project aims to emulate the achievements of the Peoples Project in responding to homelessness in Hamilton. That project reports that it has been able to house 78 of the 80 people identified rough sleeping in Hamilton two years ago. As George, one of the people who has found a home through the Hamilton project says,

I’ve got my own place now. I know who to get in contact with if I need help. And I’m staying away from the wrong crowds

Housing First is an approach to dealing with the rough sleepers and street homeless, the most visible face of homelessness, that begins by focusing on providing a home for them and providing the necessary support for people to stay in the home provided. Originating in Canada through the work of housing advocate Sam Tsemberis, the idea is catching on in New Zealand. Find out more about Housing First on the Community Housing Aotearoa website.