Sallies, homeless call for more social housing

Most reported being on a sickness or invalids benefit, supplementing their income by begging (file)
Most reported being on a sickness or invalids benefit, supplementing their income by begging (file)

The Salvation Army says its report into homelessness in west Auckland makes for grim reading.

The 'Hard Times' study, based on the experiences of 19 homeless people, found a lack of social housing and skyrocketing rental prices are forcing people to sleep rough.

"Times are hard for increasing numbers of people in Auckland and there is a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots," the report reads.

"The primary problem relates to housing availability and affordability in Auckland, and it is a problem frontline organisations are unable to deal with on their own."

Those spoken to ranged in age from under 20 to over 60. More than half were Maori. They slept in a variety of places, including on a bowling green, in a gazebo, in a container, at a McDonald's, under bridges, in carparks, vans and tents, or simply on the streets of Henderson.

One reported sleeping in the same spot for more than a decade.

Labour's housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says it's heartbreaking.

"I think no one likes to see it because it's a sign that our society and the safety net that we all think should be there has broken down and people have fallen between the cracks."

The reasons given for becoming homeless varied. Some reported addiction issues, or had to flee unsafe home environments. One said they had been evicted, another left their home after falling into arrears with their rent.

One person found themselves homeless after vacating their "structurally unsafe house that was damp and rotten". Another fled because their house became infested with rats.

One man said he had been in care since he was seven years old, had done time in prison and reported permanent accommodation made him feel like he was in "lock-up" and enjoyed the "freedom" of living on the streets.

One said she found herself homeless when her Child, Youth and Family care ended, and she couldn't return home because it was "unsafe".

Most reported being on a sickness or invalids benefit, supplementing their income by begging or picking up the odd job, while two were currently employed.

Six received no support from the Government at all. Eight said they had no contact and support from family and friends.

Three had been homeless more than 10 years.

Fourteen of the 19 interviewed reported physical and/or mental health issues, including autism, depression, diabetes, brain injury, asthma, cancer, arthritis, anxiety and paranoia.

More than half reported being the victim of assault or theft in the last 12 months.

"It is highly unlikely that these crimes were reported to the police and therefore these people may not be getting the support they need," the report reads.

"Speaking about interactions with the police, respondents said they often feel hassled and harassed."

The Salvation Army says there needs to be a bigger focus from the Government on social housing, with many of the homeless reporting a lack of affordable single-bedroom units.

"Shelter should be considered a fundamental human right and one that the state is obliged to protect."

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