4 Aug 2019

Christchurch social workers to help homeless build positive future

10:13 am on 4 August 2019

Christchurch people are part of the city's homelessness problem by enabling people on the streets to fund bad habits, a councillor says.

The Christchurch City Council estimates there are more than 200 people sleeping rough in the city.

Last year 200 homeless people in Canterbury found a home through Housing First. Photo: RNZ/ Logan Church

The council has increased the funding for an outreach social worker for a second year and has funded a mental health nurse for the first time, with the aim of connecting street beggers with the right support services.

The council has also boosted funding for Christchurch City Mission scheme by $30,000 to take the total to $100,000.

Councillor Anne Galloway said instead of giving beggars money people should support the Christchurch City Mission instead.

"If we could educate people not to give money to the person on the street but to perhaps an agency, like the city mission, then the reason for sitting there would disappear."

Community outreach social worker George Blackmore and mental health nurse Donald Cross said the new funding created exciting opportunities to pave the way for a better future for street beggars.

Mr Blackmore said it was great their work was being recognised for a second year.

"It shows an appreciation ... and now we can build on that in order to support people on the street, people we're passionate about working with."

The aim is to build rapport with street people so consent can be given to pass on personal information to social and or addiction services, as well as a Housing First initiative in order to get them into a home.

It has already proved to be a successful method. Last year 200 homeless people in Canterbury found a home through Housing First.

"Normally in the morning, we like to go out at 10am and have a street sweep to keep tabs on the guys.

"I let them know that we're here to help them in whatever way ... offer services try and get them back to the City Mission."

The last street count for rough sleepers in Canterbury resulted in a sighting of 30 people.

So far it had been a hugely positive and unexpected result, one which city missioner Matthew Mark said he hoped to continue.

There were many reasons people end up on the street, such as relationships, families, job, alcohol and drugs and it was a harsh reality for any one of us, Mr Cross said.

If people encountered people asking for money on the street, they should inform their local City Mission, Mr Mark said.

"When someone gives someone cash on the side of the street, we don't know what the cash is going to be used for.

"We want to be able to get people to a place where they are safe and well, and have a positive future ahead of them."

RNZ spoke to a former street person who said more than 90 percent of the time people would be funding cigarettes or a drug or alcohol addiction.

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