Māori make up more than over 40% of Auckland homeless - report

12:36 pm on 16 May 2019

A full report of the first city-wide census of people living rough in Auckland shows Māori are over-represented among the region's homeless.

Homeless elderly woman sleeping rough in a park curled up against the cold autumn weather on a rustic wooden bench

The Housing First Collective's programme manager Fiona Hamilton said the numbers were overwhelming. Photo: 123RF

The Point In Time Count, organised by the Housing First Collective one night last September, spanned from Wellsford in the north, across to Waiheke Island and south to Waiuku.

Its findings show of the 800 people estimated to have been living without shelter that night, nearly 43 percent of were Māori, with a similar number of Māori living in temporary accommodation.

Māori make up just 11 percent of Auckland's population.

The collective places chronically homeless people into permanent housing, and programme manager Fiona Hamilton said the numbers were overwhelming and everyone working in the sector felt a huge sense of urgency to end homelessness.

"People have been failed and we know that in Housing First Auckland, which is working at the chronic end of long-term homelessness, we see around 60 percent of the people coming in to the services are Māori. We have to acknowledge that there are big forces at play," said Ms Hamilton.

She said those forces include "big structural issues and intergenerational trauma, and the fact adults and children are coming out of care and prison into homelessness".

"It's something that we need to look at systemically and it's something we need to look at with the lense of the right responses to meet the needs of Māori and Pasifika."

Housing First's full report contains a list of recommendations for ending homelessness, including establishing a national homelessness action plan and a referral process that uses people's names.

Ms Hamiltion said the focus was to prevent - as well as address - homelessness in the country.

"We believe that local communities need to have a framework to all link back to so there is co-ordination and cohesion. The focus should be on putting people into permanent and stable housing rather than temporary emergency responses," she said.

Ms Hamilton said good data was crucial to ending homelessness.

The report recommends establishing By-Name List approach, allowing agencies to work together to support the same people experiencing homelessness.

Ms Hamilton said service providers knew people by name but the data was anonymous when it came to co-ordinating a response.

"From the level of co-ordination it's about [saying] this person of this age with these life circumstances is known and as a system we need to respond to them. It is about dignity and an urgency to respond when you know someone by name and you know their situation."

The Point In Time survey also gathered data of people living in temporary accommodation from the Ministry of Social Development and other temporary housing providers, finding 2874 people staying in such accommodation, including 1300 children.

But people living in overcrowded houses, boarding hostels, or staying in places like hospitals weren't included, nor did the count include those living in transitional and temporary housing such as motels.

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