Tackling chronic homelessness in New Zealand is first on the government's agenda in this year's budget. Today Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford announced it is investing $197 million over four years to strengthen the Housing First programme in existing high need cities and regions.
It's the governments first major announcement ahead of what it has dubbed the Wellbeing Budget.
PM Jacinda Ardern joined Minister Twyford and other Cabinet Ministers for the announcement at Vision West, one of Auckland's Housing First providers. She says the programme seeks to break the cycle of homelessness.
"It's not just about a house. People get support whether it be mental health support, drug and alcohol addiction support. It might even be budgeting support. The goal of this programme is to put people into a home and keep them in a home."
Housing First has housed 720 people and whānau in Auckland, Christchurch, Tauranga, Hamilton and Rotorua since its inception in 2017. Indicators show that 53% of those housed through the programme are Māori.
Young parents Johnny May and Tracy Body are an example of how successful the programme is. After being forced to live rough outside Hoani Waititi Marae, they were referred to Vision West.
"The third day that we had known vision west, we managed to get a $110 a week house to rent for our family and we could afford everything that came with it," says Body.
Partner May added, "they said here are the keys, we moved into our house and it was just constant support from there."
Twyford says, "Whānau have been hammered by the housing crisis. So Māori will benefit specifically as we roll out this programme and make more places available."
He added that there is also an important issue about how these services are delivered.
"While Housing First is an internationally acclaimed programme, it's come to NZ and been fine-tuned and developed in Aotearoa for our conditions."
The Auckland Housing First Collective is a bi-cultural organisation that has specifically developed a kaupapa Māori policy framework to guide the implementation of Housing First.
Ngāti Whātua Housing organisation, Te Kāhui Tū Kaha is part of that collective.
Operations Manager Marama Hetaraka says the announcement is amazing. "I think the injection of money is definitely going to benefit the country as a whole. I am interested in seeing how that will filter out to other iwi organisations throughout the country to be able to support iwi to get into this space."
They're one of three iwi Housing First providers in the country. Ngāti Whakaue in Rotorua has also stepped up to the challenge.
Twyford says the government will have more to say over the coming months about how they can support Māori organisations to be part of the solution and to deliver housing solutions.
Over the next two months, the programme is on target to be rolled out in Northland, Hawkes Bay, Nelson/Blenheim and Wellington.
Hetaraka says the injection of money is definitely going to benefit the country as a whole and is interested in seeing how that will filter out to other iwi organisations throughout the country to be able to support iwi to get into this space. "The hope is that iwi can get to a place where we can formally begin to talk to each other and say that we have a kaupapa Māori collective across the country."
The number of transitional homes will increase along with 6,400 more state homes. Phasing out the use of motels as an emergency and transitional accommodation has not yet been determined. However, Ardern says the alternative trade-off of having nothing to offer is not an option.