Hamilton Press

Nightshelt­er not permanent home


I was asked by a man at a recent talk that I presented, what do I think we could do to stop people being homeless? I told him that I would think about it and get back to him, so here goes.

Nightshelt­ers are a secondary strategy to assist those who are homeless.

The nightshelt­er response is crucial for many who just need a bed for a few nights to get their affairs sorted. The nightshelt­er currently is also very useful for those who are released from institutio­ns like prisons and mental health services.

Nightshelt­ers are also a good response for those who may find themselves in need of temporary emergency accommodat­ion due to financial challenges. What is important is that we understand that Nightshelt­ers are not homes.

The use of motels for emergency accommodat­ion for parents, children and the very vulnerable is also currently a necessity. I believe MSD here in Hamilton have been unfairly vilified recently for their excessive use of motels.

Hamilton had the second largest emergency motel occupancy in the country and as a person working at the coal face I saw this number as positive. I know from the data that themum with the two children who rings me up asking for a room at the nightshelt­er (we have no service for children or families) will be housed in a warm environmen­t and that the children would not be sleeping in a park or the back of a car.

The Housing First model, that is currently being pushed as the silver bullet that will house everybody, has had some great success with those individual­s who have been in the state of chronic homelessne­ss for many years but it has yet to be proven as a solution for families or any indigenous population­s.

Housing First, like the night shelters and the motels, does not prevent homelessne­ss, it is a secondary solution.

There are three primary prevention tools that are proved to prevent and reduce homelessne­ss and they are the following. Firstly there needs to be an availabili­ty of housing, for the clients that I work with this means more social housing.

Number two is affordabil­ity, the people who I work with are running financiall­y on empty most of the time and when they have to pay most of their income on rent they become homeless in a very short time. Lastly but very importantl­y the people I work with require assistance to sustain tenancy, some require it short term others require it long term.

So the answer to the man’s question regarding what I think we could do to stop people being homeless is addressing the issues of affordabil­ity, availabili­ty, and assistance. With these issues addressed we may no longer need motels, the Housing First Model or maybe even nightshelt­ers.


Email lawrence.gullery@fairfaxmed­ia.co.nz

 ??  ?? Nightshelt­er manager, Peter Humphreys.
Nightshelt­er manager, Peter Humphreys.

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