20 May 2016

High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets - Sallies

8:11 pm on 20 May 2016

The overheated housing market in Auckland means more employed people are seeking help because they don't have enough money to pay rent, Salvation Army says.

The Waitakere Salvation Army says it used to find fewer than one in 10 of the people seeking their help had a job, but now it's as much as a third.

Its operations manager, Rhondda Middleton, said rents are simply too high for people to have any money left over.

Rents are forcing people onto the streets, Ms Middleton said.

"People are paying well over 70 percent of their income, sometimes more, just to pay for their rent, so what do they do? How do they pay for their car, petrol, food, electricity, which is just about to go up again. How do we keep paying for that as well as keep saying to them it's going to be alright, because they're living week to week?"

Lockers for homeless

The centre is working with Auckland's working poor, and has also put lockers up outside its building, so homeless people have somewhere to put their possessions.

Salvation Army could not house all the homeless people it deals with, but at least the lockers would give them a small place of their own, Ms Middleton said.

"We've been working with the homeless guys in west Auckland for about six months to ... come to a place where we can actually get lockers for them to store their gear."

She said the Army had been trying without success to find houses for the rough sleepers who came to them for help, and decided to try and give them at least something that was theirs. "They would say 'we fight over things, we just need our own place'."

Henderson Salvation Army installed lockers for homeless people to keep their possessions.

The Salvation Army lockers for homeless people's possessions. Photo: RNZ

It had fundraised last year for money to build the lockers, which were installed last week.

Ms Middleton said she recognised it was just a small thing, but she did not have the answer to the housing issue.

"We can do one part at a time - we can try and find housing or boarding houses for the rough sleepers, but the thing that is important to me is if we can do some simple things, if we can put those into action and they know that we're listening to them, then we'll do that while we're waiting for the housing crisis to sort itself out."

Ms Middleton said the situation is as bad as she has ever seen. A striking change was the number of working poor they deal with. Where once fewer than one in 10 of the people seeking help had a job, now it is as much as one third, she said.

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