Phil Twyford: Breaking the cycle of homelessness

Opinion 14/05/2019

By Phil Twyford, Minister for Housing and Urban Development.

It is said that we are all just three life events away from homelessness – whether it starts with losing your job, getting sick or your car breaking down. Life events, deteriorating mental and physical health and the budget worries each can bring, leave us all vulnerable.

It means none of us are immune to one day finding ourselves homeless.

It’s pretty difficult to count the number of homeless New Zealanders at any moment in time. What we do know is, after nine years of National, New Zealand had the worst homeless rate in the developed world.

The long-term challenge of chronic homelessness in New Zealand took time to develop and will take a time to solve. What is clear is that there are more people homeless than most New Zealanders would be comfortable with.

Our Government understands that people’s wellbeing is intrinsically linked to their housing situation.

All New Zealanders deserve a warm, dry home and the opportunity to live with dignity. We believe, with a bit of help and support, people can get back on their feet and find their independence.

That’s why we’ve announced the biggest government investment ever in getting people off the streets, out of cars and into permanent, warm and safe housing.

We’re supporting the internationally-acclaimed programme, Housing First, to turn around the lives of more than a 1,000 long-term homeless people by helping them into permanent homes.

Housing First is all about breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Its approach is simple: Provide housing quickly, then connect them with tailored support – such as counselling and addiction treatment – for as long as it’s needed to help people stay housed and avoid ending up back on the streets. The Housing First team understands that it is easier for people to address their issues once they have a home.

As Minister for Housing, I’ve seen first-hand the amazing work their case workers do across New Zealand.

Since 2017, Housing First has housed 720 households around the country, including 431 children in Auckland alone. Put another way, Housing First has already changed the lives of enough Auckland children to fill an entire primary school.

Breaking the cycle of homelessness is about more than bricks and mortar.

It’s about prioritising investment in proven, long-lasting solutions like Housing First.

We are making good progress towards our goal to tackle the root causes of homelessness, we also know the housing crisis was created over a decade and isn’t going to be fixed overnight. We have work to do – and we’re doing it.

Phil Twyford is Minister for Housing and Urban Development.