20 Aug 2015

Rise in number of homeless pregnant women

6:12 am on 20 August 2015

Social workers and volunteers in Auckland say more and more homeless pregnant women are asking for help - some with nowhere to live just weeks before they are due to give birth.

'Pregnant and Homeless' sign (file photo).


An Auckland Council report released last year showed about 15,000 people within the city were "severely housing deprived."

Rhys Abraham, who helps run a group distributing food and essentials to people living on the streets, said volunteers had helped some women who are eight months pregnant.

Though there are no official figures, he believed the number of pregnant women sleeping rough in Auckland had trebled in the past 18 months.

"There are places that will take in pregnant women in an emergency who are otherwise homeless, but a lot of women either...don't know about it, or...can't get there, and some of these places are just full.

"They don't have any more space, they're doing the best they can, but it's still not enough."

The story is a familiar one for Corie Haddock, emergency crisis response team manager for the agency Lifewise, which is currently looking after two pregnant women.

"I'm aware of situations in the past where we've worked with other organisations that people have been heavily pregnant - eight, eight and a half months.

"So as the need of New Zealanders grows, those falling into homelessness or needing access to accomodation grows."

Mr Haddock said the shortage of housing and accomodation made finding somewhere to stay extremely hard work.

Maori party co-leader Marama Fox said the Government knew there was an issue but was not resourcing it well enough.

"Under the last budget we petitioned the Government to get some budget across for us to look into providing emergency shelters and emergency care.

"We don't think the Government is doing enough - that's why we asked for the budget to do that.

"We got a very small amount, but we're going to use that the best we can."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei agreed, and said the agencies who did provide or had provided services were coming under increasing strain.

"Government is just shifting the problem to community organisations who are already stretched to breaking point to provide support to these families.

"They are squeezing these contracts for those community organisations.

"It's harder and harder for community groups to provide for families."

But Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said she had not heard of increasing rates of homeless women.

"I'm not aware of it but I am aware that my colleague, [Social Housing] Minister [Paula] Bennett is doing quite a lot of work around homelessness. We will be having discussions in the next couple of weeks."

Ms Tolley said services were available when people ask for them. "They should be talking with their Work and Income - MSD manage housing, so they should be making their needs well known, and they should be working with their case manager."

Corie Haddock from Lifewise said there should be an inquiry to try to understand the true extent of the problem. He said homelessness in general was growing, and needed more of an effort from central and local Government, as well as local agencies.

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