Case may be threat to the hundreds of homeless in Auckland

By Te Ao - Māori News

Over a month since Te Ao Māori News first questioned the government on homeless vaccinations Auckland City Mission (Te Tāpui Atawhai), an organisation dedicated to helping those who are most in need, has been named as a location of interest, potentially putting thousands at risk. 

Health officials have said that. because of the precautions used at the mission. the person who tested positive poses a low risk.

The Ministry of Health revealed the mission has been named as a location of interest after a person who received services from the city centre site tested positive for Covid-19.
 
"The person visited the centre on the morning of October 4," a ministry statement said. "The risk to the public is thought to be low. The person was outside in a tent for testing and also queued in the open air for a meal pack. Everyone who visits the mission is required to wear a mask and stay two metres apart."

More than a thousand vaccinated

A report from the Borgen Project reported last September that 1% or 50,000 people in New Zealand are homeless or sleeping rough. Auckland is a central point for the most vulnerable communities and the epicentre of the outbreak.

The Ministry of Health said more than 1000 people had been through the Calder Centre and outreach. But also said that "providers don’t need to track the number of clients transported to community vaccination centres for vaccination." 

The Ministries of Health, Housing and Urban Development and Social Development have been working together to make vaccinations available for homeless communities, as well as facilitating testing and vaccinations for clients in emergency and transitional housing.

Covid-19 Vaccination and Immunisation Programme lead – optimising delivery Vince Barry said district health boards (DHBs) were working closely with providers of transitional housing and are building on existing relationships to support homeless people to make informed decisions on vaccinations and encourage take-up.

"The aim is to ensure that all communities have easy access to vaccination and, more importantly, that they get it delivered by familiar faces and people they trust.

"For example, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre has been working with Rough Sleepers Steering Group to design a programme for people experiencing homelessness in metro Auckland. This programme covers clients who are homeless without shelter or in emergency, transitional and social housing. About 60-80 per cent of people homeless or living in 'vulnerable housing' are Maori or Pasifika."

No clear data 

Te Ao Māori News spent more than a week questioning the government over homeless vaccinations but it didn't hand over any clear data, instead sending Te Ao Mārama this response on August 31.

“In early August, the NRHCC partnered with local homeless providers to launch an ongoing three-staged approach to get the Auckland homeless community vaccinated against COVID-19.

“This included setting up the Calder Centre, The Auckland City Mission’s on-site GP centre, as a vaccination centre. This has allowed for those who receive services from the Mission to be vaccinated in a familiar and trusted location.

As of August 31, 234 vaccinations accounted for had been given to the homeless community including 68 to Māori and 22 to Pasifika.

The country went into lockdown on August 17, which may be around the same time in early August when the partnership began and over 18 months since the first case of Covid-19 was found in New Zealand.

In August Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "What we don't have is a national dataset that categorises people as homeless. That is because no such dataset in that way exists. People move in and out of housing but they will be known by the housing providers. That is why we work with those who know the community and know who they need to target."

So the most vulnerable communities in Aotearoa remain uncounted and, without data, gaining certainty may be near impossible. 

Between July 2020 and June 2021  the Auckland City Mission distributed 48,679 emergency food parcels to families and individuals in desperate need, helped 466 people into emergency and transitional housing, given 17,054 medical consultations at Calder Health Centre, given 536 alcohol and other drugs assessments and served 97,499 meals at Haeata, the community centre.