30 Sep 2015

Emergency housing funding 'just a band-aid'

5:41 am on 30 September 2015

Social housing groups say the government's $2 million in funding for new emergency housing in Auckland is a band-aid response to an overwhelming national problem.

The extra money announced yesterday will go to non-government organisations to provide more short-term accommodation in the city.

But advocates in other regions are asking - why just Auckland?

Whangarei

Whangarei Photo: Lisa Conze / CC SA 1.0

A Whangarei housing trust points to a desperate situation in Northland.

Te Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust chairperson Adrian Whale said it turned away two families a day because it did not have enough beds on offer.

He said it was heartwrenching to say no.

"That's what really breaks the hearts of the staff. Saying that there's no room in the inn is something that we've prided ourselves in not doing; we've had open doors for quite some time.

"To turn people away knowing that they will be spending time either in their cars or other overcrowded situations is something that we just hate doing," he said.

Mr Whale said being transient had become a lifestyle for some people and he was now finding some Auckland people, who he said had lost hope in the big city, were becoming regular door-knockers in Whangarei.

"Unfortunately, we're all full as well. I think the announcement was that there would be further announcements coming up but for us we would like to know that now to sustain it in the future," he said.

Diane Robertson inside the Auckland City Mission.

Diane Robertson inside the Auckland City Mission, where she worked for 22 years before resigning this year. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The James Liston Hostel is an emergency accommodation provider in Auckland.

It has 40 beds that are always filled and it gets no government funding.

The newly announced funding will boost the number of emergency housing beds in Auckland from 99 to 219 - and James Liston Hostel board chairperson Diane Robertson said that was a very limited step in the right direction.

"I think this is putting some money on the table towards it and it's an acknowledgement that there is an issue.

"The reality is there are organisations that are currently doing the job that need a cash injection alongside those that want to start off with new services," she said.

Community Housing Aotearoa said the government announcement was good for Auckland, but nowhere else.

Its director, Scott Figenshow, said it was a small drop in a deep accommodation bucket.

"There needs to be investment in the existing emergency housing services. We understand that is probably in the works but it's really about the minimum that could be done to try to add new places," he said.

"But, to be honest, some of this money could add new places and also invest in current providers."

The government said the $2 million for Auckland could go towards new buildings or towards refurbishing properties that were not already being used for emergency housing.