Homelessness worse than ever, national strategy desperately needed - advocacy groups

As the coldest week in the year bears down on New Zealand, the problem of homelessness is getting worse, according to groups that work with people sleeping rough.

Desperate people are being turned away by Auckland City Mission, which has reached capacity, and Te Puea Marae is again opening its doors to the homeless.

Lifewise chief executive Moira Lawler says what the country needs is a national strategy. She told The AM Show that strategy would need start with an effective count "so we know what we're dealing with".

The problem is definitely getting worse, Ms Lawler said.

Ms Lawler said the problem is too important to become a political football and it's a problem the government can't pawn off to community groups to deal with.

Moira Lawler says taxation settings and tenancy legislation could help prevent homelessness.
Moira Lawler says taxation settings and tenancy legislation could help prevent homelessness. Photo credit: Newshub.

"It's really important that the political parties and government understands there are some things only government can do.

"This is about policy settings. Some of this is about taxation settings; some of this is about tenancy legislation, so this can't be left to the community and NGOs. There are steps the government has to take."

She said Te Puea Marae's work with Māori families and Lifewise and City Missions' policy to prioritise getting people into homes works, but funding can't be allocated on an ad hoc basis.

"We can't assume that if we fund every part of the community to work with a programme they think might be effective in a really ad hoc and unaligned way, that we can solve a really complex problem. We need a strategy."

Preventing people from becoming homeless

Moira Lawler said it's really important to ensure people who are housed stay housed. Tenancy legislation should reflect that, she said.

People need to be able to afford rents in order to prevent them becoming homeless. Ms Lawler said while National's boost to the accommodation supplement has been welcomed, it's essentially a subsidy for landlords. She said income for families is "really important" to ensure people remain housed.