23 Oct 2015

Youth homelessness initiative makes mark in Christchurch

5:36 am on 23 October 2015

Several months after a youth homelessness initiative was set up in Christchurch, more beds are becoming available for those living rough or on the street.

Police have been issuing non-association orders to homeless people in Christchurch.

More beds are becoming available for those living rough or on the street in Christchurch (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Jemma Brackebush

The Methodist Mission negotiates with landlords to get homeless young people in a house and then provides ongoing support.

Methodist Mission chief executive Jill Hawkey

Jill Hawkey Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

With funding from the Christchurch City Council, six youngsters are already in a home and this week another three are moving into a second one.

Methodist Mission chief executive Jill Hawkey said the scheme was about giving young people a chance.

"For our latest home, we had to find $2500 to cover the bond, letting fee and rent - no young person or group of young people can come up with that sort of money," Ms Hawkey said.

She said most of the homeless teenagers they worked with had come from Child Youth and Family (CYF) care.

"We work beside [Christchurch social agency] Youth and Cultural Development (YCD) who have close relationships with these young people; they provide support once they are in a home and teach them how to create a home.

"The support is key, these kids have never had the responsibility of a home before. For many it is a foreign thing."

Once in a home, the young people cover the rent and bills - and, after a year, the Methodist Mission talks with the landlord about renewing the lease directly with the tenants.

Other schemes on the way

St John of God Waipuna, which is working on a similar plan, is talking with the council about getting young people into social housing.

The trust's youth housing project leader, Paul McMahon, said before the earthquakes there were about 1500 homeless youths in Christchurch. After the quakes, that figure doubled.

"Many of them feel they will never have a place to live in. For the youth I work with, the idea of a warm dry home seems completely out of reach."

Mr McMahon said, although it took time, the trust's youth homeless initiative was working.

"I've seen some pretty shocking sights. I remember one young couple living in an uninsulated brick garage. It's something that will always stick in my mind.

"Although it takes time to find resources and a while to get people into a home, the more youth we can house, the more youth are off the streets."

He said the earthquakes took 10,000 houses out of the market, which has had a huge impact on renters in particular.

"The housing stock not just in Christchurch but across most of the country is bad. If a landlord has the option between a two-income couple or a group of young kids who are homeless, it is clear who they will pick." Mr McMahon said.

Dr Sue Bagshaw, who works at a youth health clinic in the central city, also has big plans.

She is trying to find land in the central city for a multimillion dollar youth housing complex.

"It will be transitional housing, a hub where homeless people can move into, and get access to health care, career advice that sort of thing."

Like the Methodist Mission and Waipuna Trust, people will have to pay rent at the hub.

"It's not going to create a ghetto in the city. It is no different to an apartment complex with young people living in it."

Ms Bagsaw said if her project could find land and start fundraising soon, the youth hub could be operating within three years.

She said the initiative and the groups involved were doing wonders to help homeless young people - not just in the short term, but setting them up for life.

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