New Zealanders cannot bear injustice. We sign petitions to change the system, sleep in cars to show solidarity, and generously donate to a worthy cause like the Lifewise Big Sleepout.
In the last few weeks, a Marae opened its doors to homeless people, a community housing trust in Auckland received $800K to fund more emergency housing, homes were donated to homeless families.
Why then does homelessness not go away?
It’s because all our good deeds and intentions mean little in isolation. Petitions and protests draw attention to the issue. Donations and in-kind support help to provide food and urgent services. And having a roof above one’s head means shelter from the cold wintry rain.
All these efforts only seem like solutions because they temporarily fix a visible symptom of homelessness. None of them can make a problem as complex as homelessness go away. Most countries in the Western world have struggled with it since the ’80s; thirty years is too long to not have a solution in sight.
For too long, too many disadvantaged New Zealanders have been caught in the crossfire of Party Politics. What we need is a cross-Party, evidence-based agreement; a policy that every Party agrees on regardless of its affiliation. This isn’t about whether there should be more emergency shelters or fewer barriers to having a home. It’s about making sure that a path to an independent and fulfilling life is available to all, with some safety nets along the way if needed.
Petitions, protests, and donations are quick ideas we cannot do without but we also need long-term solutions. We need to agree that we all want the same thing – to end homelessness – and we all need to agree to work together to make that happen.