New Govt homeless scheme goes beyond beds

(Getty / file)
(Getty / file)

The Government is putting money into a scheme for homeless people that won't give them a bed.

Housing First instead looks at the wider problems around homelessness and the services required to keep people off the streets.

Awatea Hawke spent a year homeless and is at home on the streets.

Eventually he found a Housing New Zealand home, but the struggle didn't end by simply putting a roof over his head.

"I was disconnected from my family, not wanting to face up to the failure in my life," he says.

"Slowly my circle just shrunk to me and my depression."

Now he's trying to prevent others from going down that path, helping design a Housing First programme for Lifewise, an organisation which works with the homeless.

"To make a house a home, that's a warmth, that's relationship, it's inviting," Mr Hawke says.

Housing First is an internationally recognised movement which turns the concept of rehoming homeless on its head.

"It's really two-fold," says Lifewise chief executive Moira Lawler.

"Rapid housing, and then support to stay housed. But in the middle of that is listening to people."

And on Friday was some good news - our Government is now backing the programme. 

"Probably one of the most important of things from our point of view is Government recognition that this model is an approach worth backing," Ms Lawler says.

The Government has announced it will spend $9 million over two years - $3 million will go toward the Housing First programme while the other $6 will go toward Better Housing Outcomes, which aims to prevent people being evicted from social housing and ending up homeless.

The funding was leftover from money budgeted to be spent on income related rent subsidies.

It was due to expire so Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett snapped it up for this, and Mr Hawke thinks that was a great move.

The Opposition was quick to leap on the scheme, with Labour leader Andrew Little calling it "another last minute, short-sighted and piecemeal decision" to try and fix the housing crisis.

But Ms Paula Bennett says the move will help around 2000 people and it's not just about finding beds - it's about tackling the root causes of homelessness.