Shelters don’t solve homelessness
Funding pressure has forced Auckland’s Lifewise to find new ways to help the city’s homeless.
The squeeze came after Auckland’s only emergency night shelter, on Airedale St, went into liquidation last June.
The shelter had space for up to 30 sleepers and accommodated many long-term tenants.
Lifewise service manager Corie Haddock says several attempts were made to source funding to keep the shelter going but this only delayed the closure for a couple of months.
He says once Lifewise realised the closure was going ahead they worked to find suitable accommodation for its residents as soon as possible.
But Mr Haddock says he would not re-open the shelter now even if he did have the funds.
‘‘It wouldn’t solve the problem, in fact in a way it hides the issue of homelessness,’’ he says.
Finding permanent accommodation and offering counselling for the homeless is a better option, Mr Haddock says.
He believes that is where government funding should go.
There are still eight to 10 ‘‘emergency’’ beds available at the James Liston Hostel which picked up the slack when the shelter closed.
The hostel provides a home for those who struggle to live independently. For $180 a week residents get a room, breakfast, dinner, and access to showers and a laundry.
The emergency beds are available at $20 a night and Lifewise often pays board for those in desperate need.
Hostel director Angel Renjith works closely with the Lifewise team and says there are still not enough beds.
‘‘The hostel is always full. Even now, there are 18 people on the waiting list,’’ she says.
Mr Haddock says he often meets people in very desperate situations.
‘‘I’ve paid for a family’s hotel room with my credit card because there was nowhere else to go.’’
Lifewise is able to offer help in other ways, like through its lowcost cafe Merge where meals can be bought for $3 to $4.
One cafe visitor is Lifewise social worker Alex Frank.
She says the organisation has received good feedback about the cafe.
‘‘We used to have a soup kitchen on Queen St but it almost felt like a prison,’’ she says.
‘‘Homeless people would just line up, get their food and leave.’’
Ms Frank says at Merge everyone can mix together.
‘‘We have both homeless people and businessmen eating together. It is a community space,’’ she says.
Profits from Merge go to Lifewise but are not enough to see it running at its full potential.
The four social workers on the team provide help for drug and alcohol addictions, and counselling for those with mental health issues.
Lifewise staff also help people find permanent housing by putting them on the Housing New Zealand waiting list and allowing them access to a computer to search for properties on Trade-Me.
When necessary, homeless people are able to use their office address to qualify for WINZ payments.
Despite the dedicated staff at both Lifewise and the James Liston Hostel, the organisations need more volunteers.
Ms Renjith says the government needs to step in.
‘‘People associate the homeless with a certain stereotype but don’t realise that many are just normal, everyday people. You would see them walking past and wouldn’t guess they had nowhere to stay.’’
Go to lifewise.org.nz or jameslistonhostel.co.nz for more detail.
Community: Lifewise social worker Alex Frank at the organisation’s cafe, Merge.