Volunteers take to Auckland's streets for first homeless count

Hundreds of Aucklanders are taking to the streets on Monday night to count how many homeless there are across the city.

Homelessness has been at crisis level for years - and this winter, even more people slept without shelter on Auckland streets.

"We've seen a growth, definitely a growth," says Auckland City Mission chief executive Chris Farrelly. "We've seen changes in profile, we're seeing more women and young people."

While 750 volunteers were needed, more than 1000 put their name forward. Some of those helping out have been homeless themselves.

They're gathering at the Mt Eden headquarters before spreading out across the city to count the city's homeless for the first time.

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.

Volunteers take to Auckland's streets for first homeless count
Photo credit: Newshub

"It's not pretty cool sleeping on the streets - I'm freezing my arse off while everyone is going inside and keeping warm," one homeless person told Newshub.

It's that smaller group, our most vulnerable and hard to reach, that will be counted on Monday night, as it's believed many may not take part in the Census.

Questions about age, sexuality and time spent on the streets will also identify the types of needs they have.

"I can't read or write. I got kicked out of school, my principal said to me when you're 18 years you'll go to prison, and when I hit 18 years old where did I go? Straight to prison," a homeless person told Newshub.

Action from a similar count in the Canadian city of Edmonton - which has a similar population to Auckland - saw homelessness cut by almost 45 percent in seven years.

While organisers admit they won't be able to count every person, they're hopeful a clearer picture of the problem will mean funding goes to the right areas and more will get into homes.

"Rather than putting people into short-term emergency responses, the ideal is to move people into stable situations," says Fiona Hamilton, of Housing First Auckland.

And that remains one of the big problems: there just aren't enough long-term affordable housing options in Auckland.