16 Dec 2016

Hamilton group says it's ended homelessness in the city

8:00 am on 16 December 2016

A Hamilton group says it has ended homelessness in the city by finding homes for more than 800 individuals and families in the last two years.

The People's Project has housed 127 people in just over a year.

The People's Project has housed more than 800 people in the two years since it was set up. Photo: 123RF

The People's Project was set up in August 2014 with the goal that no one would be living on the streets or sleeping rough in the city by the end of this year.

The project is a collaboration between the council, police, government agencies, business and housing groups.

Project head Julie Nelson said of the 80 rough sleepers in the city, all but two had been housed, and homes had been found for hundreds more who needed help.

"We've done that by using the 'Housing First' approach, which is housing people first and then putting the support services around people that will assist them to deal with some of the issues that resulted in them coming onto the street in the first place."

Her team was still working to find suitable homes for the two remaining rough sleepers, she said.

The People's Project was the first in New Zealand to adopt the Housing First model, an internationally proven model that recognised that it was easier for people to address issues once they were housed.

The team focused on quickly moving vulnerable people into housing and immediately giving them access to the services they needed, Ms Nelson said.

94 percent of those housed by The People's Project were still in their homes a year or two down the track.

Three quarters of those helped by the project had found homes in the private rental sector.

The team had worked closely with real estate agents and local landlords who had taken a chance on people who might otherwise have been excluded from the private market.

The project was now being studied by Otago and Waikato Universities.

But Ms Nelson said that the "transitionally homeless" - such as people living in cars - was an emerging issue for the city.

"We have seen dramatic changes in the housing market and as a consequence increased numbers of transitionally homeless families and individuals."

The priority of the People's Project now was to continue working with the small number of rough sleepers or chronic homeless who had emerged in the last two years, while preventing more individuals and families from joining them on the streets.

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