20 May 2024

Fears Queenstown's homeless problem is about to snowball

8:30 am on 20 May 2024
There are now 17 confirmed cases of the parasitic illness cryptosporidium in the Queenstown area.

A Christchurch advocate for the homeless said numbers in the city were similar to the last two winters. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

An advocate for homeless people in Queenstown says she is worried the resort town will see an influx of hundreds of people sleeping in tents this winter.

A Dunedin group working with rough sleepers said this week dozens of people 40-60 were living in tents, many on one sports field.

In Queenstown, Happiness House manager Léna Boss said a lot of people would start arriving for the start of the ski season soon, but they would not have anywhere to live.

Boss said she was worried it could be like last year, when hundreds of people stayed in tents in the middle of winter in Department of Conservation camps such as Twelve Mile Delta and Lake Moke.

She said those living in tents and cars were a mix of locals and people in New Zealand on working holiday visas.

A Christchurch advocate for the homeless said numbers in the city were similar to the last two winters, but it was likely many more were not on their radar.

Christchurch City Mission's Corinne Haines said she knew of 37 people sleeping rough in the inner city, while the night shelter provided beds for 27 others.

Haines said there would be "many, many" others sleeping in cars and caravans, and on couches they did not know about.

During the recent cold snap, she said the mission's outreach worker made sure people sleeping rough in the CBD were given dry bedding and warm clothing.

One man was sleeping under a sheet in -5C, while his dog - who Haines described as his "friend, family and support" - had a jacket, a beanie hat and booties.

She said the man was given his own set of warm clothes and blankets.

Haines said a handful of people were living in tents on a vacant lot in central Christchurch six months ago, but were moved on.

The Christchurch City Mission was recently given three years of funding by the city council to pay for a second outreach worker. Haines said the mission was about to hire someone, which would mean they could look out for homeless people in suburbs beyond the CBD, seven days a week.

She said she was also "really, really grateful" for people who drop off winter clothes and bedding. Donations can be left at the mission's Hereford Street office or at its Barbados Street op shop."

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