Shel­ters don’t solve home­less­ness

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JES­SICA MCALLEN

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.

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