Alleged rape of homeless highlights need for shelter

Following a number of alleged sexual assaults on homeless people in Auckland, a homeless people's advocate is stressing the immediate need for an overnight homeless shelter.

There is more to homelessness than meets the eye, with alleged sexual assault emerging as an issue for Auckland's rough sleepers.

Homeless people's advocate Audrey van Ryn says, "People get attacked on the street, rapes happen every night, it's just not safe".

Tracie Winchcombe lives on the streets.  She told Te Kāea, "You hear women screaming their heads off because they're being raped and beaten up".

Audrey van Ryn says not only do rough sleepers need an overnight shelter to keep them safe from physical and sexual harm, but the overnight temperature is expected to plummet to 9 degrees tomorrow night and three homeless in Auckland died in the cold last year.

"It's also unhealthy, it's cold, people who are already ill just get sicker.  They shouldn't have to sleep in the street, they shouldn't have to sleep in their cars".

The newly elected Green Party leader, Marama Davidson is in support of an overnight shelter in Auckland.  She says, "We lost two people in the streets of Manurewa, my own community last winter.  Winter's coming up again, if we lose more people that will be on us".

Te Kāea spoke to the New Zealand Police who say they are compassionate and empathetic to rough sleepers and often work with other agencies to support them. 

The police encourage anyone who feels unsafe to contact their nearest police station.

Winchcombe says, "I'm concerned for myself and the safety of myself because I have hardly any options".

Audrey Van Ryn has presented a submission to the Auckland Council with more than two thousand signatures in support of opening an overnight shelter.