18 Sep 2018

Hundreds help to count homeless in Auckland

12:34 pm on 18 September 2018

Organisers are crunching the numbers from the first regionwide census of Auckland's homeless population.

Housing First peer support worker Rob Smith

Housing First worker Rob Smith with census volunteers. Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

Hundreds of volunteers last night fanned out across Auckland to undertake the sensitive task of counting the region's homeless.

The census, Ira Mata, Ira Tangata, is the first of its kind in the city

Armed with a map and a specially designed app, small teams headed to known rough sleeper haunts and scanned less likely areas as part of an attempt by community organisations and the Auckland Council to quantify the city's homelessness problem

Before heading out, Wilf Holt of Auckland City Mission, dubbed the grandfather of street counts, told the hundreds of volunteers to treat those they came across with respect.

After all, he said, they were walking into someone's bedroom.

Wilf Holt

Wilf Holt Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

"You've actually taken a bit of effort to set up for the night. You've laid your groundsheet down, you might have put some cardboard down, you've got your bedroll down, your blanket on top of that. You've packed away your gear, you've covered in it plastic in case it rains."

Mr Holt has been involved in earlier counts which covered just the 3km from the Sky Tower.

There had never been a major safety incident but he warned people to say away from any behaviour that looked dangerous.

Most of the small teams were led by an experienced community worker, like Rob Smith.

The former homeless man is now working with Housing First, the organisation leading the census, to give the benefit of his experience.

The turnout of volunteers was "bloody awesome" he said. Those being counted had helped too.

"We've had some great support from our homeless whānau in terms of what this is all about.

"We've involved them in the development of this programme and really made it a part of them."

Housing First's Fiona Hamilton said late last night all had gone to plan in the central city area.

Some people did not want to be interviewed but they were still able to be counted, she said.

The data will be released next month.

Hundreds of volunteers are given a briefing at Eden Park, one of five hubs for the census of the region's homeless

Hundreds of volunteers are given a briefing at Eden Park, one of five hubs for the census. Photo: RNZ