In March, Hutt City Councillors will consider what actions Council will take towards ending homelessness in the city, as part of a wider homelessness strategy being developed together with groups and agencies working in the field.
In preparation for this, extensive research undertaken by Council staff has shown homelessness has increased significantly in the past 12 years, and it now takes longer to house homeless people than in the past.
The number of emergency housing special needs grants, issued by the Ministry of Social Development, that pay for homeless people and families to stay in emergency accommodation such as motels or hotels, increased every successive quarter of 2018.
Despite Lower Hutt’s population making up only about 20 per cent of Wellington Region’s population, 55 per cent of emergency accommodation funding spent in the Wellington Region was paid out to Lower Hutt households in the September 2018 quarter. Rents in the city have risen significantly in the last few years and the waiting list for public housing increased 153 per cent between the 2016 and 2018 September quarters.
Homelessness is defined as people not having safe and secure housing, and this includes not only those living on the streets or in cars but in temporary, unsafe or overcrowded accommodation.
Council’s Principal Research and Policy Advisor John Pritchard says the common stereotypes of homeless people are inaccurate. Like Nicole in the accompanying story, the majority of homeless adults are working, studying or both, according to a University of Otago study based on the most recent census data. And like Nicole’s family, the largest household type experiencing homelessness was single parent families.
The key reason for homelessness is a lack of suitable and affordable housing in the city. Other factors relate to people’s individual circumstances including redundancy, family breakdown, domestic violence, addiction or poor physical or mental health.
- Hutt City Council is running a survey to gauge people’s views on its vision and priorities for a homelessness strategy.