Why are people homeless in Wellington?
Homelessness is a significant challenge faced by many cities around Aotearoa and the world. It takes on many forms, with people rough sleeping in the city being the most visible. Pōneke is known for being a compassionate and inclusive city, so it's not surprising that Wellingtonians are particularly concerned about this issue.
There are a range of factors that can contribute towards a person being homeless, including:
- the cost and availability of housing
- poor mental or physical health
- drug or alcohol addiction
- traumatic life events.
What are we doing about it?
Everyone's individual circumstances are different, and no one agency can solve all these problems. That's why we're taking a collaborative approach to ending homelessness in Wellington, guided by our Te Mahana strategy. We partner with DCM to deliver an Assertive Outreach Programme. Assertive Outreach is a proactive street engagement programme where team members go out and connect directly with our city’s rough sleeping community.
We work closely with the DCM team who proactively engage and develop a plan with each individual they work with. The plan will include a variety of positive pathways such as getting into housing, education, health services and/or employment. Services are delivered using an 'assertive' approach that focuses on assisting and encouraging people to exit homelessness, rather than supporting them in maintaining their homelessness. This involves building a relationship of trust that encourages individuals to engage with the appropriate services and improve their quality of life. We fund this important service and our very own Contact Centre manages the notifications and concerns from members of the public.
Evidence shows that the most effective way to address homelessness is to get people suffering from chronic homelessness into Housing First, without preconditions. There are two providers of Housing First services in Wellington. One is the Aro Mai Collective, which is a collaboration of agencies who work together to end homelessness that includes DCM, the Wellington City Mission, Emerge, The Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust and Takiri Mai te Ata. Wellington’s other Housing First provider is Kahungunu Whānau Services, a kaupapa Māori provider that delivers a range of services centred around wellbeing.
Alongside providing support & funding for DCM’s outreach service, we also fund agencies that provide emergency and transitional accommodation, budgeting advice and other services which can help prevent people falling into chronic homelessness.
Supporting a safe, friendly central city
Our streets are for everyone, and alongside our responsibility to look after vulnerable residents sits a responsibility to ensure our streets are safe, clean and accessible for all. Our Hāpai Ake Community Wellbeing team (Local Hosts) support this by monitoring our streets, talking to local businesses and building owners, connecting vulnerable people with support services, and discouraging anti-social behaviour.
Rough sleeping and begging aren't illegal in Pōneke and evidence tells us that punitive approaches don't work well at addressing these problems. However, we don't tolerate aggressive, anti-social, obstructive, or unsafe behaviour on Wellington's streets, and refer any such behaviour to the Police.
It is important that our approach responds to the broader needs of residents, businesses owners, visitors and the welfare of the most vulnerable members of our community (including those experiencing homelessness or are at risk of falling into homelessness).
Housing is a big part of the solution
The Council is already one of the city's largest providers of affordable rental housing, with more than 1900 homes across the city. We've been doing this since the 1950s, and are committed to continuing and improving our services. We've made increasing the city's housing stock a priority in our Long-term Plan 2018-28, a programme of work which includes:
- Increasing the supply of quality housing to match the needs of Wellingtonians
- Working in partnership with Kāinga Ora and the Ministry of Social Development to establish supported living options for our most vulnerable homeless population
- In collaboration with central government, identifying opportunities to develop Special Housing Areas which will streamline consenting processes for key development sites
- Working with the private sector to encourage residential conversions of underused office buildings
This work is informed by Our Housing Strategy.
What can I do?
If you're concerned about someone who is begging or rough sleeping, please phone Wellington City Council's contact centre on 04 499 4444, and we'll pass it onto someone who can help. By handling these calls, we help agencies focus on delivering their core services. It also helps us to stay informed about trends around the city and allocate resources accordingly.
If you think the behaviour of someone on the street is unlawful or unsafe, phone Wellington police on 105, or for emergencies, dial 111.
In general, supporting social agencies who can provide wrap-around support to vulnerable people is more effective than direct donations. See the links below for agency websites, where you can donate.