To be homeless is to be excluded from one of our basic human rights, the right to adequate shelter. Contrary to common stereotypes it is not a personal lifestyle choice, and most homeless people also experience multiple disadvantages including poor physical, emotional and mental health, unemployment, addiction and exclusion from the social institutions others take for granted.
For too long this government has dismissed the issue of homelessness and the problems that are associated with it. Those without shelter are no longer restricted to the big cities, homelessness is now in every city and most towns in New Zealand and without a committed and collective response numbers will continue to grow along with poverty and other social issues.
The issue of homelessness has been an invisible reality in New Zealand for some time however over past 10 years numbers of those experiencing homelessness has grown significantly as more New Zealanders fall into poverty due to the impact of government policy and inaction.
Homelessness stems from a range of factors, many of which are inter-connected. For some it is a lack of affordable housing, for others it can be inadequate or no income and/or high levels of financial debt, others have unresolved addiction and mental health issues which have long term negative impact on their health and brings them to the attention of the law. For youth on the street they tend to have a history of being in state care or find the street a safer place to live than home due to abuse and violence.
The reality is everyone has a different story but what they all have in common is the lack of any state funded support to transition them out of the situation they are in.
If homelessness is to be eradicated in our country it will require more than emergency accommodation, night shelters and soup kitchens. It will need a collective strategy to combat the social issues and barriers that lead to homelessness. We need services that support people into permanent housing. We need the commitment and leadership of central government in partnership with community based service providers who have the skill, knowledge and resources to implement locally based homelessness strategies.
Ending homelessness will not be easy, however it is possible. It cannot be accomplished by any one group, organization or service to end homelessness in New Zealand we need to commit to valuing all people and providing them with the opportunity to change and grow.
Corie Haddock worked at the coal face of homelessness in Auckland’s CBD for almost a decade, finishing in March this year. In that time he developed and ran person centred, innovative services that focused on ending homelessness one person at a time. He was also Labour’s candidate in the Helensville electorate in 2014. Currently he is the co-chair of the New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness, a national body that works at all leaves to address the issue of homelessness. Corie is now self employed working on innovations that can address homelessness at a community level.