Call for focus on holistic wellbeing for homeless post-lockdown

updated By Mare Haimona-Riki

Over 1000 motel rooms and units across the country are currently being occupied by the homeless.

With the recent government announcement of $100mil being allocated towards housing, the question remains, what does the future hold for the homeless after lockdown?

Anxiety is growing among homeless shelters and welfare services.

Chris Farrelly, CEO, Auckland City Mission says the homeless are wondering, “What will occur when this is over? Will I be turfed back onto the streets again? When we get back to the new normal?”

Debbie Munroe, operator of homeless support centre Waka of Caring, says, “I'm really worried about that. There's no way they are going to be able to house all of those people in motels. They can’t!”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson is calling for a permanent solution.

The Government earmarked $1mil for housing homeless, Auckland City Mission CEO, Chris Farrelly says there should be focused more on the holistic health well-being of the homeless community.

“It’s the house, and the support service required to grow in wellness in that place. Otherwise, the very things that drove them into homeless in the first place, could throw them back into homelessness very easily.”

At the Waka of Caring in Manurewa, 35 homeless people have come to Whaea Debs Munroe to find housing during the lockdown. She was successful in helping them but knows that they will be back once lockdown is over. She says she's working on a plan.

“We may have somebody who is offering to sponsor us to get the building next door. Which if we do, it means we can look after those that need it and look after them properly.”

Marama Davidson elaborates on what the permanent solution she is calling for could look like.

“Making sure that government has got enough emergency homes for the short time frame. But what we need is a good supply of long term, permanent affordable homes, which is our public housing so that we can move people out of those emergency homes to permanent housing.”     

Farrelly says that a lot of homes have become available due to the lockdown.

“The problem in NZ is there just hasn’t been affordable housing in Auckland. They’ve never been available and now they are. Because of Airbnbs that are empty and a lot of other accommodation that was available now that wasn't pre-COVID-19.”

It is clear that more will need to be done to ensure the homeless are well supported once the Alert Level restrictions have been completely lifted.