Homelessness in Wellington

13 March 2012

We are looking at new, coordinated ways to help the growing number of homeless people in Wellington.

Council flat resident Uoneone Edmonds

Council flat resident Uoneone Edmonds

While putting an end to homelessness is an ambitious goal, we think a new, coordinated approach can significantly reduce the numbers.

The Council's Homelessness Strategy was adopted in 2004. We allocate $358,000 a year to help fund a number of organisations that work to help the city's homeless, or those threatened with homelessness, including the Downtown Community Ministry ($148,000), Night Shelter ($35,000), City Mission ($44,000), Catacombs ($23,000) and the Soup Kitchen ($15,000).

We estimate there are about 200 homeless people in Wellington, including rough sleepers, or those living on the streets. This compares with 160 a year ago.

Homelessness is officially defined as a living situation where a person cannot acquire safe and secure housing, is without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodation with a household, or living in substandard housing. The Downtown Community Ministry supports 400 people who are homeless or vulnerable to homelessness, up from 300 a year ago.

The tough economic climate is putting more pressure on our most vulnerable residents, making it harder for them to secure and sustain proper accommodation. We think the answer is getting all of the service providers, including the Council, to agree to a united and concerted approach.

The Council's Social Portfolio Leader, Councillor Stephanie Cook, says Council staff over the last six months have been speaking with the agencies that work with homeless and vulnerable people - and the clear message is that Wellington needs a 'whole of city' approach if we are to have any real chance of ending homelessness.

"The Council has always recognised it cannot do this alone and has worked with a number of partners," says Cr Cook.

"But the environment has become more challenging and it is time to review things."

Ueoneone Edmonds, 60, who has lived in a Council flat in Strathmore for the past eight months, has been homeless. He lived on the streets on-and-off for three years. As well as the Council, Ueoneone, better known to his friends as John, relies on support from Te Aro Health and the Downtown Community Ministry, whose staff visit him regularly.

When he was on the streets he was also a regular at the Soup Kitchen, run by the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre, in Tory Street.

Ueoneone says the services provided by various agencies and volunteers are vital.

"We would have a much harder time without them," he says.

Ueoneone drove a truck for 38 years but after separating from his wife and spending two years in hospital after being badly hurt in an accident, he found himself jobless and homeless.

"I ended up in the Night Shelter. Without money you're always going to end up on the streets. You can't rent a house with no money.

"A lot of people say [to the homeless] you should harden up and get a job - they should get to know a person before they criticise."

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the wider issue of housing affordability must be addressed and the Council is working with the Government, other councils and community organisations and volunteers.

We want to develop a collaborative approach to end homelessness. In short, we will seek agreement about what services we should provide and where the money should be spent. What is agreed, if approved by Councillors, will be adopted as the City's new homelessness strategy. Councillors will consider the scope of the review next Thursday 22 March.