28 Aug 2017

Shelter disputes National leader's homeless claim

5:57 pm on 28 August 2017

The manager of a Hamilton shelter is disputing the National Party leader's claim that homelessness has almost been eliminated in the city.

In an extended interview on Morning Report today, Mr English held up Hamilton up as an example of government progress on tackling homelessness.

"Here's a fact. In Hamilton homelessness has almost been eliminated by dealing with the people on the street one by one and the complexity of their problems," he said.

But the manager of Hamilton Christian Nightshelter, Peter Humphreys, said the shelter had just had its busiest three months under his management.

"I'm really not sure where he gets his numbers from.

"I know the numbers for us is really high. It's the highest it's been since I've been there in 2008, so I'm not sure what his definition of homelessness is."

Mr Humphreys said in the past few months the 25-bed men's shelter has been full while the nine-bed women's shelter had been at 60 percent of capacity.

The shelter had had to turn away about six people in the past month. Mr Humphreys said that was the last thing they wanted to do, as people ended up living in parks or by the river.

A group of agencies in Hamilton called the People's Project last year said it had housed all but two of the city's 80 rough sleepers.

But Mr Humphreys questioned the success of that project.

"I've never seen any data from it. All I'm getting is anecdotal evidence from it and on the ground it doesn't seem any different to me.

"There's only a limited amount of housing that will take people from night shelters or will take people from institutions. Some people will get fast-tracked into those by having agencies like the People's Project but in reality there's only the same spaces."

Rhode Street School Principal Shane Ngatai said more than 20 of his families were experiencing overcrowding as rents have gone up.

He said a lot of families are staying with extended whānau as rents rise.

"A lot of investors have come to Hamilton and bought a lot of the properties, and they've just upped the rent to get their return. It's all about supply and demand. We don't have a lot of rental accommodation under the $400 a week mark now, which is prohibitive for a lot of our families on low incomes."

Mr Ngatai said he knows of one family of 14 living in a three-bedroom house and garage, which has a huge effect on childrens' wellbeing.

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