6 Jun 2019

Auckland homeless shelter gets $5m makeover

2:24 pm on 6 June 2019

New Zealand's largest emergency housing hostel has reopened in Auckland following a multi-million dollar refurbishment.

A room at the new emergency housing complex.

A room at the new emergency housing complex. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Seven extra beds have been introduced at James Liston Hostel in the central city for the hundreds of people in need of urgent shelter in Auckland.

Last year's homelessness count found at least 3600 people living without shelter across the region.

It also found 800 people sleeping on the streets - with the majority in central Auckland.

The hostel was founded by a group of Auckland City churches in the late 1960s to provide emergency accommodation for single men.

The $5 million refurbishment was its first major renovation since then.

From the outside, the hostel does not appear to have changed since it was built - its tall white concrete walls and vertical windows remain.

Inside is much brighter: walls are lined with colourful strips of paint and works of art, there's new carpet and pots of blooming flowers scattered throughout the building.

Edward Wilson, who has been living at the hostel for six weeks, said his future had become brighter, too.

"With all of the trauma that has happened to me prior to coming here, just to know that somebody cares; just to know somebody is listening is by far the biggest measure in this and that's what I've gotten out of here because people are listening to me," he said.

"People are being attentive to what's been going on for me, so it gives me a chance to move on."

People in need of emergency accommodation can stay for up to 12 weeks.

During that time they are supported in finding permanent housing, paying bills and obtaining a benefit.

Edward is moving out of the hostel and into his own unit today.

He said he would not be doing so without the help of hostel staff.

"They pushed with MSD, they pushed with Housing New Zealand," he added.

"Then they further pushed it to make sure someone was engaging with me to make sure I was getting what I needed in order to move on and get back into being a member of society, really, or a productive member of society."

The $5m renovation created space for seven new beds - bringing the hostel's total to 52. New bathrooms, central heating and improved security features have also been introduced.

Auckland Council contributed $2m in funding for the work, the remaining $3m came from community groups. James Liston Trust chair Dame Diane Robertson said that funding had been transformational.

"For the staff, they didn't have offices - before, the place was just terrible to work in and it wasn't safe, it was dirty.

"We used to put paddling pools in the dining room to collect all of the water from the roof so, you know, it's just been a terrible, terrible place to work and to live."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff

Phil Goff Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the James Liston Hostel was a small but meaningful step in tackling that problem.

"Housing is a basic human right and we need to extend that right to everybody," he said.

"We've done a lot but we've still got a long way to go and we ought not [to] be satisfied until homelessness in our city is a rare and a transient thing."

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