Govt emergency housing funds a 'lifeline'

Govt emergency housing funds a 'lifeline'

Government funding to help the homeless into emergency housing will be a welcome relief for Wellington's night shelter, which itself lives "hand-to-mouth".

Three thousand places will be made available across the country per year as part of the Government's Budget later this month.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett made the announcement at the Wellington night shelter this morning.

Over the next four years, the Government will put in $41.1 million for emergency housing and grants. The funding will continue beyond this, with Ms Bennett saying that "has to" be the case.

"Emergency housing provides an essential safety net for people in crisis, and is an opportunity to intervene and support families with complex needs."

It's the first time the Government has given dedicated and ongoing funding to such a cause which Ms Bennett says will give those who operate homeless shelters security in their planning.

The Ministry of Social Development will contract NGOs to provide the places. A new grant will be set up to help people and families with the cost of emergency housing for up to a week if they can't access a contracted place.

The first contacts are expected to be in place by September.

Up to 60 beds will be made available in Wellington.

Wellington Night Shelter Trust chair John Kennedy-Good says it's a "most welcome lifeline" for the homeless.

He says the shelter has enough funding until July, and is itself in an emergency situation.

"If we can share in this funding of up to 60 places in Wellington it will be a game-changer. Right now, the Night Shelter is only barely surviving, with all our resources focused on keeping our doors open."

The money will come at a time where the shelter is running "hand-to-mouth" with the help of Wellington City Council and other benefactors.

Mr Kennedy-Good says if the new funding is secured, they can work to break the cycle of homelessness rather than "applying a band-aid".

Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford says this morning's announcement was an "inevitable consequence" of the Government not dealing with a housing crisis and of selling off state houses.

"New Zealand is witnessing an unprecedented rise in homelessness as a generation of Kiwi families fall between the cracks opened up by John Key allowing the housing crisis to spiral out of control.

"There are thousands of desperate families living in campgrounds, garages and even in cars. This is a direct result of National's refusal to upset the mega profits of foreign speculators, land-bankers and the super-rich," he says.

He says homelessness is becoming more visible in the centres of New Zealand's main cities.

Green Party social housing spokeswoman Marama Davidson has echoed the same sentiment, saying while the money is helpful for the work those organisations do, it does nothing to fix an underlying cause of the problem.

"Instead of doing something meaningful to address the affordable housing crisis in Auckland, the Government keeps offering up piecemeal 'solutions' -- today's announcement from Paula Bennett is another example of that," she says.