Social housing shortage in Tauranga

Nov 9, 2017 | News

Tauranga Moana Nightshelter

Tauranga Moana NightshelterPhoto:RNZ / Jo O’Brien

Radio New Zealand reported today that about 10 of the 20 men in the shelter have been waiting for homes for more than a year.

The man, who did not want to be identified, said before he ended up in the shelter he was on the streets for a long time.

“Nowhere else to go so you get used to it. But there are people out there that just want to kick you over or beat you up or do something stupid. So it’s not a safe place to be.”

Tauranga Moana Nightshelter

Tauranga Moana NightshelterPhoto:RNZ / Jo O’Brien

The shelter helped him to manage his health problems and he said he was ready to move on.

He said there were others in the shelter who also now have hope for a better life.

“I know quite a few of the boys and they’ve all been through the same. All they’re trying to do is get a decent life, get a job, and get a place to live, good on ’em.”

Other men at the shelter said they were working through mental health and addiction issues, and how they would love to find a place of their own now.

One has been on the social housing waiting list for two years.

Shelter Manager Annamarie Angus said over the last year men have been waiting unreasonable amounts of time for housing.

Tauranga Moana Nightshelter Manager Annamarie Angus

Tauranga Moana Nightshelter Manager Annamarie AngusPhoto:RNZ / Jo O’Brien

She said the Ministry of Social Development has told her women and children were the priority.

“Because of the lack of housing women and children and families became displaced or were living in unsafe places. Therefore they took precedent over our single men. So that has had an impact on our guys.”

More than 160 people are on the social housing register in Tauranga.

The Ministry of Social Development said priority was given to those in highest need who do not have alternative options, not to those who have been on the list the longest.

But Ms Angus said the men at the shelter work hard to make changes in their lives in the hope of getting a home – and they were equally deserving.

“A lot of the men … are vulnerable and they’ve been hurt badly on the streets. So how do you say one group of our society is more worthy or more deserving than another?”

Ms Angus said the shelter was full and they were having to turn away others because they cannot move the men that are already there into homes of their own.

“We’re turning away new faces everyday nearly and the people that we’ve already turned away we know are still out there so it’s growing… Homeless men are on the increase so that’s a worry.”

The Social Development Ministry said it was concerned to hear people have been turned away from accommodation and urged anyone who does not have a place to stay to contact it immediately.

Tauranga City Council estimates there are now 470 homeless people in the city including 70 rough sleepers.

Steph O’Sullivan, the chair of Our Community Project, a multi-agency housing forum, said they were looking at how housing needs are prioritised.

But she said the lack of housing in the city, including a severe undersupply of one or two bedroom dwellings, makes it difficult.

However, she said efforts were being made by private social housing provider Accessible Properties to improve its housing stock and make smaller homes available.

Ms O’Sullivan said the rollout to Tauranga of Housing First, a project which gets people into homes and provides wraparound services to support them, would also make a difference.

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