Spike in homeless 16 and 17-year-olds living in emergency housing

There's been a sharp spike in the number of homeless 16 and 17-year-olds living in emergency housing.

Figures obtained by Newshub reveal a 370 percent increase in emergency housing grants in the past three financial years.

There were 2667 granted to Youth Payment clients in the 12 months to June this year, up from 567 grants in 2019.

The cost is climbing too with a total of $5.8 million paid out to accommodation suppliers to house those teens.

Youth advocates worry this latest lockdown will force more young people onto the streets.

"We are getting referrals every day for rangatahi who are in desperate need for safe accommodation," says LifeWise youth housing team leader Aaron Hendry.

Dedicated emergency housing for young people is in place during alert level 4, but Hendry says it's not a long-term solution.

"We've got concerns about what happens to the young people who are in these motels when the lockdown ends because they're not going to stop being homeless on day one of level 2."

Ma Te Huruhuru Trust CEO Mahera Maihi says the motel system doesn't work.

"We've had young people who have declined being in motels because they'd rather be on the street."

The trust is trying hard to find solutions with little funding.

Teenagers are regularly sleeping on the floor of their offices because there is nowhere else for them to go, Maihi told Newshub.

"We do have to open up our office for these young people because we've got nowhere else to put them and nobody will help us with resourcing."

Advocates have long been calling for the Government to launch a homelessness plan specifically for young people.

"Youth homelessness is so hidden but it's hidden in plain sight so we've got thousands that are experiencing homelessness," Bianca Johanson from the Manaaki Rangatahi Collective says.

"Youth homelessness is a crisis. A human rights crisis."

The Associate Housing Minister Marama Davidson told Newshub reducing youth homelessness is one of her "top priorities".

"I am currently working with the sector and officials to review the Homelessness Action Plan. This will include investigating whether we need a dedicated plan to reducing youth homelessness."

Hendry believes it can be done.

"We can end this and if we end youth homelessness we know that we will go a long way in ending homelessness in Aotearoa altogether."