Homelessness this Christmas

By   /   December 24, 2013  /   10 Comments

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To access income support in New Zealand you need a physical address and a bank account. To get a bank account you need a physical address. To vote you need a physical address. Labour has always understood that a house is so much more than just a roof over the head.

I’ve just finished nearly two weeks doing the EU visitors programme based around climate change, environment and energy policy. I’ll blog more about that in the New Year once I’ve had time to go through all the material but needless to say it was a fascinating visit and New Zealand is certainly on Europe’s radar, which represents both opportunities and risks.

I’ve been to Brussels once before about seven years ago. What struck me on this visit is the dramatic extent to which homelessness has visibly increased – perhaps not surprising given the difficult financial times. As we all head off to spend Christmas with friends and family it’s important we don’t forget those who are struggling, who aren’t able to provide the basics let alone gifts for the kids, and the wonderful people who work through the holiday period to support them and make what can be a very difficult time a little bit easier.

Homelessness is also an increasing problem in New Zealand. It is estimated that one in 20 New Zealanders is sleeping in temporary accommodation, on a relative or friend’s couch or lounge floor, in a garage or car, or in some other ‘unfit’ accommodation. A quarter of these are children. And yet at the same time homelessness remains one of our most misunderstood issues.

Despite efforts to raise awareness by the New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness and those who work at the coal face running shelters, supported accommodation and social services, the prevailing view still seems to be that homelessness is largely a choice, and that in a country with a comprehensive social security and state housing system no one should be homeless. And on one level I can understand that thinking. But it’s not that simple.

To access income support in New Zealand you need a physical address and a bank account. To get a bank account you need a physical address. To vote you need a physical address. Labour has always understood that a house is so much more than just a roof over the head. So much of our ability to participate in and engage with society is reliant on the assumption that in Godzone every Kiwi will be adequately housed. When we fall short of this goal the social implications can be immense. And social housing is hugely over-subscribed so if you are a single male your chances of accessing a Housing New Zealand property are very low.

It’s easy to dismiss homeless people – especially the visibly homeless on the streets – as a public nuisance, visual eyesore, or having chosen their own circumstances. The video below is American but accurately echoes the comments of Kiwis who are current or formerly homeless that I have met through amazing groups like Lifewise in Auckland. It’s well worth a watch.

There are a few relatively simple things government could do right now- for a start they could stick to their own definition of homelessness and ensure that no government policy has the effect of increasing homelessness. There is also no single agency responsible for dealing with homelessness or emergency accommodation – a major issue given that there is very little if any emergency provision outside of the main centres. They could return Housing New Zealand to it’s rightful role as a social housing provider (reversing the decision to stop our social housing provider considering a tenants “wider social needs”), and they could free up the thousands of state houses that are sitting vacant for tenanting.

Labour is committed to working with the New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness, and across Parliament, to achieve the goals of housing every Kiwi by 2020 and ending homelessness in New Zealand.

A very Merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year to all.

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10 Comments

  1. Countryboy says:

    I sometimes wonder if it’d be better being homeless than having to worry about spending my beautiful days being enslaved by a Bankster . And I see the scum bastards are threatening to hike interest rates now that they have poor people hooked into massive , inflated , mythical , mortgages . The dirty , lying swine .
    As an example , a 500k mortgage on a shitty , weatherboard dump in Auckland ? What a blatant scam . A swindle . One tiny piece of land , a small stack of old timber , a small box of nails , a few sheets of iron , some glass , door hinges , handles , light switches , wiring and plumbing . 650 K thanks . I mean , WTF ? Swindle ! People are being conned .

  2. finbar says:

    Has the author opened her home to the homeless.Is she off to the family holiday batch.

    • jenny says:

      I think you have missed the point of this post Finbar.

      It is not about charity.

      Finbar I think you should watch the Youtube video that Moana has supplied. The homeless want a home, they don’t want dependence, they want freedom from want. They want, what every human being wants and needs. A roof over their head sure, but not dependence on someone else for that roof, who on a whim could throw them out.

      Charity is a power trip for those better off.

      • I agree Jenny, how homeless and poor people are treated in New Zealand is deplorable. But keep in mind this is where the people forced off the benefit go, National has turned the welfare system into a shut door.

        I think many years back there was a documentary on TVNZ about homeless people, it seemed to re-enforce the false perception that homeless are only homeless because they are mentally ill; rather than unable to find work or a compassionate employer.

        Unfortunately you see in the National party a denial of the serious problems of homelessness and poverty in general in New Zealand. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that most National party supporters earnestly believe that people are homeless or poor because they aren’t working hard enough, or are too lazy to find work.

      • jane says:

        yes I agree and well put; homelessness will not be solved with intermittent charity any more than hunger will be assuaged by a christmas dinner once a year, although that does mean emotional sustenance of a kind. If the government can’t commit to providing a decent state house for anyone that needs it and won’t make it financially possible for families to buy their own homes it should think laterally and start providing a different kind of accommodation. New Zealand is rich, bursting with building materials, clothing and feeding people should be simple and straightforward, fun even. New Zealand used to make milk biscuits for foreign aid. What happened there? They do get overproduction of milk it should be utilised better. Merry Christmas everyone, thank you TDB.

  3. Marc says:

    Moana,

    well good to hear from you, even if it is via Brussels. I come from near there, and not all is fine ther eeither. Anyway, thanks for catching up with homelessness in NZ. It is a disgrace and Housing NZ is resetting the rules, so many more will be without homes soon. What is the biggest problem is that rentals or home buying p[rices are totally out of affordability levels for most.

    I know that here in Auckland, we have heaps of Chinese investor buyers taking advantage, as they still see your prices as cheap. Nobody with an average wage or income in NZ can now afford a home in most of Auckland.

    We have a shit government that caters for the “investor” buddy, the migrant with lots of cash to buy a home, but who shit on us. I am furious, I hate this government and John Key, as he is only there for his mates and cares a crap for anybody else.

  4. Stuart Munro says:

    Singapore and Hongkong have respectable state housing systems. Partly based on NZ’s before the neo-liberals stole everything and wrecked the place.

    We need to re-regulate the banks. New Zealand is not poor by accident, and it is also the reason behind our declining productivity. Instead of a goverment that steals we need a government that builds. Harsh clawback penalties for stealing in office are also long overdue.

  5. cassie blake says:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/09/usa-homeless-numbers-spending-cuts

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/homelessness

    This is also happening overseas.
    This is because of the mindset of the Elite, who by virtue of their mega billion $ fortunes, have the power to control the economy of countries.
    The mindset they all have is what is known as “neo liberal”. It is like a deadly global virus. The Elite don’t care a damn about people.
    You will have noticed that NZ has “caught “it too. John Key is an installment by the Elite. Notice he cares not about people.( the right criteria) The Elite= ultra rich in the financial realm..eg International Banksters.
    Their aim is to reduce workers to the level of economic slaves (now achieved), whist hoping that the rest of humanity ie the poor & homeless will just hurry up & die. This is pure naked fact.
    (Meanwhile , we have had 2 emerging generations of “dumbed down” public who don’t really give a damn either..which is areal worry )

    • jane says:

      today I saw an article about Utah state who are going to give homeless people free apartments. The reasoning is it actually costs one half of the cost of prison/health facility/damages on the street/ murders and muggings etc incurred as a result of people living on the street. so common sense plus financial logic equals care for people- I will be posting the link here when I can refind it

      • Marc says:

        Jane – I hope that this kind of program in Utah comes not with the expectation that the helped homeless will commit themselves to joining the LDS (aka “Mormon”) Church and become employed, and with that “tithe paying” members.

        This is a bit tongue in cheek, as I do not know about the details of what you are talking about, but a link to the info would help, if you can provide it, please.


 
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