And End to Homelessness in Auckland?

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f549546695954b0493801a48626bf7a61eb0a30f.png?u=847021Housing First officially launched in Auckland
Last updated 12:42, March 23 2017
Canadian community psychologist Tsemberis created the Housing First approach in 1992.

A housing model with the ambitious goal to end homelessness in Auckland has officially launched.

The model, called Housing First, is on a two year pilot and aims to end homelessness in Auckland by putting 472 rough sleepers into permanent housing as soon as possible.

The Housing First pilot has been up and running since early March but was officially launched by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Social Housing Minister Amy Adams on March 23.

Social Housing Minister Amy Adams has officially launched Housing First with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
Social Housing Minister Amy Adams has officially launched Housing First with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

Adams said in order to help rough sleepers they needed to be put into secure housing first.

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"This Housing First pilot will help achieve this by helping our homeless into safe, secure and stable accommodation, and then providing wrap-around services to address their issues," Adams said.

An estimated 177 people sleeping rough in Auckland’s CBD last year – up from 68 in 2013.
An estimated 177 people sleeping rough in Auckland’s CBD last year – up from 68 in 2013.

The model goes against the traditional approach of addressing health and addiction issues before putting homeless people into housing.

Funds for the project are coming from the Government, which put up $3.7 million, and Auckland Council which has allocated $1m.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said homelessness was a growing problem in Auckland and it needed to be tackled as a priority.

"The housing first approach has worked in other cities in New Zealand and overseas and that is why we are adopting here," Goff said.

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"Housing First Auckland is already delivering results, with eight rough sleepers in central and west Auckland now in homes with on-going wrap-around support. Across the city, more than 30 people are in the wings for similar support," he said.

Created by Canadian community psychologist Sam Tsemberis in 1992, Housing First is based on the idea that homeless should be housed first before any other issues such as addiction and mental health are addressed.

Housing First is being implemented by the Auckland City Mission, Lifewise, LinkPeople, Vision West and Affinity Services, which together make up the Auckland Housing First Collective.

Auckland City Mission chief executive officer Chris Farrelly said the approach was already well advanced in Hamilton where more than 200 people had already been housed.

"It is about understanding that a house is the primary place of healing for homeless that are in a very vulnerable situation or suffering from addiction," Farrelly said.

"Once they are in a house we then can rap the support they need around them."

In early March Lifewise chief executive Moira Lawler said Housing First was an evidence based model that had major success overseas.

According to the Utah Housing and Community Development Comprehensive Report on Homelessness 2014, the approach led to a 72 per cent drop in chronic homelessness in that US state.

"The ultimate goal is that this will end functional homelessness, so when someone is homeless it will be brief, rare and non recurring," Lawler said.

Lawler said Housing First would use both state and private houses.

"Because the programme is customised and intensive it is quite a good deal for landlords.

"We can guarantee rent, we can guarantee very strong and regular communication, we can guarantee the place will be left in the condition it was rented in," she said.

Lawler said the cost to ratepayers of a homeless person was often a lot higher than if they were housed.

"Very vulnerable and unwell people, are costing the taxpayer now, they are in and out of police cells, they are in and out of emergency departments, they’re creating a nuisance and stress for retailers.

"So solving that problem saves money and understanding the cost of doing nothing is quite important."