16 Sep 2014

Homeless youngsters growing in Chch

8:59 am on 16 September 2014

Homelessness amongst young people in Christchurch is at record levels and pushing increasing numbers to live in overcrowded houses, a charitable trust says.

A fire service crew at the scene of the Parklands house fire in Christchurch.

A fire service crew at the scene of the Parklands house fire in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Jemma Brackebush

The comments follow a fatal fire in a state house in Parklands, where a woman had taken in four homeless young people, and a warning from the Fire Service about an increased risk of fires in overcrowded dwellings.

Corey James McLean died in the Parklands house on 13 September.

The St John of God Waipuna Trust helps young people find emergency housing and private rentals in Christchurch and currently has 30 people on its waiting list - more than ever before.

Spokesperson Paul McMahon said before the earthquakes it was unusual for youngsters to struggle to find somewhere to live but now they could wait for up in the nine months before something became available.

"In Christchurch there is more emergency transitional housing for animals than there is for young people," he said.

The people he saw everyday were just the tip of a large iceberg brought on by a perfect storm of limited numbers of affordable homes and the rising cost of rent.

"Those young people are sleeping on friends' couches, floors, sharing beds and if they're not doing that they might be sleeping in a car or in a tent," Mr McMahon said.

City-wide problem

Amy Burke, who hands out donated clothes and food to the homeless, said the situation in Parklands, where eight people were living in one home, was being repeated around the city.

"We're hearing about people that are ten in a two-bedroom flat. One lady's decided she needs to get as many people off the streets as possible and she's housing 10 in a two-bedroom flat."

Ms Burke is looking for funding for an emergency housing village in the eastern suburbs, which she wants to get built before next winter.

"Initially we'd like to start with 20 units and then constantly be building on site so that there's options to be moved to others sites but we just want to get as many people as possible out of these conditions of sleeping rough."

Housing New Zealand said the woman who lost her home in the Parklands fire was formally warned just a week ago about having extra people living there.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said Housing New Zealand staff were warned by the police about visiting the house alone because of problems they'd had there in the past.

"I'm hesitant to go further than that in that we've had a tragic death and before we pull conclusions as to what might be learnt from this tragic fire I think we need to allow the coroner's court to do its full inquiry."

Mr Smith said Housing New Zealand was on track to repair or rebuild 5000 of its homes by the end of next year, and this should go a long way to preventing overcrowding.

A state house in Aranui awaits repair.

A state house in Aranui awaits repair. Photo: RNZ

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs