A community-led and Council-supported research document exploring the causes and effects of homelessness and severe housing deprivation in our District is a critical new resource that will be used to determine future responses to these complex social issues.
“Homelessness in the Whakatāne District – A Situational Overview” was completed over a six-month period by researcher Ruth Greenaway on behalf of the Whakatāne District Homelessness Focus Group (WDHFG) and under the direction of Council’s Senior Community Development Advisor, Karen Summerhays. The report was published this week.
The research was commissioned by WDHFG, whose members are made up of agencies and individuals who have been working in the homelessness space – including Council representation. Two hui were held either side of the New Year initially with the intention of applying for central government funding to address homelessness. However, it soon became clear to the group that more information was needed to accurately document and describe Whakatāne District’s homelessness and severe housing deprivation situation in order to focus funding applications and mahi in the most appropriate areas.
The situational report has been written from a grassroots community perspective with a sub-regional focus. It aims to provide a deeper understanding of the environment in which support services are delivered to people already experiencing homelessness in the District, alongside any existing strategies to prevent homelessness and to improve the living conditions of people faced with precarious housing arrangements or severe housing deprivation.
Some of the key District-wide statistics are as follows:
• 470 people experiencing some form of homelessness
• 356 people on the Public Housing Register – 277 identified as homeless
• 20 families living in emergency accommodation
• 23 people living in community housing
• 74 rough sleepers
• 38 people staying with friends or family
WDHFG member and Te Puna Ora o Mataatua Chief Operating Officer, Lee Colquhoun, says the research provides a clearer understanding of the scale of homelessness across the Whakatāne District, including the number of people who are rough sleepers, those living in temporary accommodation, and those on the public housing register.
“The report also identifies gaps in existing services and forms the basis of a unique opportunity for the community to come together in partnership with iwi, hapū and hauora providers, and local and central government to seek solutions through a collective impact approach. I’m very motivated to continue to be a part of this journey,” he says.
The research illustrates the dynamic nature of the housing and homelessness environment, and the range and complexity of need faced by some individuals and whānau living in the District.
Homelessness and housing deprivation is considered across four categories: Without shelter (rough sleeping and mobile dwellings); suitability of housing (e.g. overcrowding); temporary accommodation and uninhabitable housing.
WDHFG member and Waiariki Whānau Mentoring Trust Chief Executive, Vince Copeland, says that by bringing together the resources and leadership required to fulfil the recommendations in the report there is hope for real change and the creation of sustainable housing options to meet demand across the District.
“The report is a clear milestone along this pathway – there’s a lot of hard mahi still ahead but we are very positive about the possibilities for working together to make things better for our communities in the future.”
The expectation is that the homelessness situational overview report will be used to apply for central government and other funding to support homelessness prevention and response activities. Exactly what form this will take will be confirmed at upcoming WDHFG hui.