11 Oct 2017

'What's on offer is homelessness'

5:56 am on 11 October 2017

As political parties vie for a spot in the next government, homeless people are urging them to make affordable housing a top priority.

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Photo: 123rf

Yesterday marked World Homeless Day and around 100 people gathered in Auckland's Aotea Square to provide support to those in need.

A recent Auckland Council study estimated there were 23,409 homeless people living in Auckland - an increase of more than 3000 over four years.

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Sammy Heart. Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

Sammy Heart has been homeless on and off for five years and said things were getting worse.

She said she wanted more action from the government and that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was the man for the job, as he was the only politician who had turned up to the Auckland City Mission to talk about his plans to help.

"Labour and National, they're always talking about how they're going to help the homeless but not once do they come and talk to us."

She said Mr Peters was a man of action.

"He does what he says and he comes and talks to you and he doesn't look at you like you're a piece of s***, you know, he makes you feel like you're a human being.

"I know he won't be prime minister but he would be my prime minister pick."

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Peter Hooton and a fellow James Liston Hostel resident. Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

Peter Hooton was also at the event and said there needed to be more affordable housing options available.

He was released from a three-month stint in prison earlier this year but said there was no accommodation available and no way he could afford to pay Auckland rents.

"You've basically got to take what's on offer, and what's on offer is homelessness."

Mr Hooton spent some time living on streets before finding temporary accommodation at the James Liston Hostel, an emergency housing provider for short to medium stays.

But he said he would be back on street if he could not find somewhere else to live after his 12 week stay.

James Liston Hostel manager Charlotte Ama said while there had been plenty of talk from political parties over the past year, now was the time to see who would provide more support to housing networks and for the homeless.

She was hopeful that action would be taken.

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly said there needed to be a national strategy so that that homelessness could be measured and reduced, with a target to compare progress every year.

"New Zealand has set major goals before - audacious ambitious goals on other things.

"We set ourselves to win the World Cup and this is much bigger."

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