1 Feb 2022

Omicron outbreak: Government takes different path over housing for homeless

7:23 am on 1 February 2022

There will not be a repeat of the massive push in 2020 to get all homeless people off the streets before the coming Omicron outbreak.

General vision of homelessness in Auckland central city.

If a homeless person tests positive for the virus, hubs staffed by people from various social agencies will arrange accommodation for them to isolate in. Photo: RNZ / Luke McPake

During the first nationwide lockdown two years ago, government agencies and social service providers essentially housed all rough sleepers.

The government kicked in an extra $100 million, and thousands of people were placed into emergency and transitional housing in motels and other accommodation providers in the intervening years.

Auckland City Missioner Helen Robinson said while she was "deeply worried" about what is to come, they were focusing on keeping their existing services going.

"It's really really important that people who are very vulnerable have access to both support and health services.

"The planning at our end is just ensuring that that's going on."

Robinson said the mission was very keen to get access to more rapid antigen tests for its staff.

The mission was making contingency plans assuming 30 percent of workers might be off sick or isolating at any one time.

Robinson said staff have gained lots of experience over the two years of the pandemic.

She said government ministries and agencies have worked with the mission throughout and have been "incredibly helpful" at a practical level.

"Central government has been very very good ... already ... [in the] response to the Omicron virus ... and I'm genuinely very grateful to them."

The Ministry of Health said in a statement that district health boards have established what are called care coordination hubs in each region, made up of local health and welfare support providers along with the Ministry of Social Development.

If a homeless person tests positive for the virus, the hubs arrange accommodation for them to isolate in.

MSD said in a statement an extra $12m is being given to foodbanks and community food organisations in Auckland, Waikato and Northland.

It said anyone with an urgent need for housing can get in touch via freephone 0800 559 009.

Late last year the government announced $204m to support service providers that are involved with helping people in self-isolation.

Associate Minister for Housing (Homelessness) Marama Davidson said in a statement the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Te Tūā Papa Kura Kāinga has been working closely with housing and social service agencies to help marginalised communities during the pandemic.

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