Homesless plead for help from councillors
Christchurch City councillors have come to the assistance of a group of homeless people who pleaded with the council to find them a home.
‘‘We don’t want to be on the street. We want to be at home, at work and with our families. We want to be part of a community, but we can’t be because we’re getting knocked down,’’ JB Wallace told the council during its public forum section yesterday.
Wallace and six other homeless people attended the meeting to raise awareness of their plight and ask for help. They had been encouraged to attend by Cr Deon Swiggs.
‘‘We need a lot of help. People in our midst are educated and skilled. All they need is a second chance,’’ Wallace, who has been homeless for six years, said.
‘‘All I’m asking for is a second chance to get skills, get a job, get a home, get a better life. We don’t want people to give us money and food. If we can get the skill to do the job, we can do that ourself.’’
Rachel Morgan said she had been on the streets for six weeks and had been unable to find anywhere to live.
‘‘Most of us have mental health issues. Some of us do not have benefits.‘‘
Morgan’s daughter, Benita Hemopo, said it ‘‘sucked being homeless’’. She was not able to have a shower when she felt like it.
‘‘Help us get into a home we can afford. Help us. It’s hard.’’
Mayor Lianne Dalziel told the group there was not a single person around the table who did not feel for their situation. Crs Vicki Buck and Swiggs immediately left the meeting and drove the group to the Otautahi Community Housing Trust, which manages the council’s social housing units.
Trust chief executive Cate Kearney said she received several texts from Buck saying she was bringing a group of homeless people to her.
‘‘I like the way she operates. If there is a problem, she is going to solve it today.’’
Five of the people were offered emergency housing through the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and two were not able to be housed because they had dogs.
Two people took up the offer for emergency housing and the other three declined in favour of the trust helping them to find permanent accommodation.
Kearney said the trust would work with other agencies to find them all homes.
Swiggs said it took him two weeks to convince the group to come to the meeting because they did not trust authorities after having been let down so many times. He wanted them to go to the meeting to ‘‘put a face to the real problems’’.
The council is working with community housing providers and MSD to create a Housing First initiative aimed at putting rough sleepers into permanent housing. The initiative, funded by the Government, is expected to become operational in February.
The Government invested $16.5 million in this year’s Budget to expand Housing First into areas of high need across the country, including up to 100 places allocated to Christchurch.