'It's a hell of an existence': Phil Goff's night with Auckland's homeless

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff spent Monday night getting to know Auckland's homeless, alongside hundreds of volunteers who worked together to tally the city's rough sleepers. 

Officials in Auckland believe they now have accurate information to tackle homelessness, after up to 1000 volunteers took to the streets on Monday night with the aim of getting more accurate information on the problem. 

Mr Goff spent the night talking to rough sleepers in the Auckland suburb of Mangere, which is not known for having a lot of homelessness. But speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday, the mayor said he came across three individuals braving the cold. 

"It's a hell of an existence," Mr Goff said, telling The AM Show one of the rough sleepers he spoke to was sleeping in a doorway, while another was sleeping near a takeaway bar, and a third homeless person was sleeping in his car. 

"One of them said he had been out on the streets for three years and another for practically two years," Mr Goff said. He asked one of the rough sleepers if he felt safe sleeping on the streets and the man told Mr Goff he had recently been stabbed and spent time in hospital. 

"Not only are you out there in the cold and sometimes wet, but it's also a really insecure environment," the Mayor said. "You're out there on the streets with no shower and none of the amenities that you or I take for granted as part of a normal life."

Analysis of Census data shows more than 20,000 fall under the broader term of homelessness - including those in crowded or emergency housing - but 771 have no shelter or sleep in cars.

The programme manager for Housing First Auckland, Fiona Hamilton, told The AM Show on Monday homelessness has extended beyond central Auckland in recent years and into the suburbs. In the last 2016 central Auckland count, she said homelessness was "just shy of 200". 

Mr Goff said Housing First has housed 582 people in the last 15 months, but the organisation offers the accommodation as emergency relief, and the wider issues of why people become homeless - including mental health - needs to be tackled.

"Of the first people that we housed over a year ago, 85 percent of them are still in the homes that we provided and 80 percent of those homes are provided by private sector landlords that the Housing First organisation works with," he told The AM Show. 

Housing First project lead Julie Nelson said in May private landlords are an "incredibly important partner for services in the collective."

She said the organisation "has a lot to offer landlords, including guaranteed rent, free tenancy management and knowing tenants really well because regular home visits is part of the programme." 

Mr Goff said the goal is that homelessness "should be rare and short-lived", adding, "You've got to have places where people that can't pay for the market can go."


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