Labouring with housing for the homeless

Housing for the homeless, for those living in cars, living in garages and cramming into shared accommodation, has suddenly become a media and political issue even though it’s been a problem for many years, decades.

One morning about ten years ago we found a person sleeping on the floor in a passageway in the building where I work. He must have have entered before the building was locked at night.

Like many social issues it’s a difficult one to deal with. Many homeless people live on the fringes of society and can be difficult to accommodate in the system.

But homelessness happens to be an issue that is suddenly getting the media spotlight. And political interests have either created this attention  or are trying to benefit from it.

Bryan Gould: Homelessness a problem Govt chooses to avoid

The Prime Minister, asked yesterday morning on National Radio, what advice he would offer to an Auckland family with nowhere to live but in a car, suggested that they should, “Go to see Work and Income to see what help they could give them.”

The advice that a desk officer in Work and Income could miraculously find them a house they could afford was the equivalent of shrugging his shoulders and saying, “I have no idea of what they could do and I don’t really care.”

This is a very politically loaded paraphrase from Gould and misrepresenting the Prime Minister like this won’t help informed debate.

WINZ is actually a valid suggestion as they deal with emergency benefits and housing for those who are struggling. It is probably the best place to start.

And saying the Government is choosing to avoid the issue is ignorant or dishonest.

Last week: Emergency housing funds good start – providers

New funding will give some relief to families currently forced to live in cars and garages, emergency housing providers say.

The government yesterday announced it will provide $41 million over the next four years to fund 3000 emergency housing places and a special needs grant for people in crisis.

The fund will provide about 800 beds at any one time across New Zealand – 360 of them in Auckland.

Although providers welcomed the announcement, they said the government also needed to address the underlying problems that were leaving increasing numbers of people homeless.

So the Government is clearly trying to address the issue, and this will have been planned and the funds allocated some time before homelessness jump into the spotlight.

A cynic could suspect that news that the Government is trying to do something about it has prompted opponents to try and create a negative impression.

And last month the first increase in benefits for a long time kicked in. Governments will always be questioned on whether they are doing the right things and doing as much as they can but claiming the are deliberately ignoring social problems is dishonest.

Gould suggests:

Yet let us be clear. The problem of families with children forced to live in third-world conditions is eminently resolvable. It simply requires the application of resources – resources that a country with our wealth could easily afford. The issue is one of priorities.

Allocating Government resources is always one of priorities. But there is simply nowhere near enough money to fix every social problem, even if that was possible – money is just one part of a complex mix.

We could put an end to child poverty and housing shortages if we decided to move the issue nearer the top of the list.

While Gould refers to ‘the issue’ he names two and they are both parts of much wider issues. Many children statistically deemed to be in poverty in New Zealand are already housed.

It doesn’t happen because we choose that it shouldn’t. We choose to elect a government that we know will give a low priority to the most vulnerable in our society – a government that on the other hand will strive might and main and will take considerable political risks in the interests of, for example, its friends in the foreign trust industry.

Gould now switches to his real aim – to promote a change of Government. As if that would suddenly fix all problems with housing and children.

Sadly, the cynical view of human nature represented by the values of so-called “middle New Zealand” now allow our government in effect to wash its hands of the problem.

This sort of political rhetoric will do nothing to house the homeless and lift all children out of poverty.

Gould seems to think that waving a socialist wand will solve all the problems, but he is expressing a more extreme ‘diss the Government, vaguely suggest magic solutions’ than the Labour party he supports – a party that is struggling to be taken seriously as an alternative to National, in part because of messengers like Gould.

And it’s not just Gould.

NZH: Andrew Little’s crowded house stunt backfires

There have been recent stories in the media about overcrowding in Auckland, with people having to live in cars, garages and tents on properties.

The problem appears to be worst in Otara, where one house in particular reportedly had 17 people living on the property, with some forced out of the house to sleep in a tent.

Everyone recognises there are real and serious problems with housing , especially in Auckland.

Labour leader Andrew Little attempted to show reporters an overcrowded house in South Auckland yesterday – but it backfired when the indignant owner insisted it was only being renovated.

The media were given an address on Bairds Rd in Otara, which fitted the description of the above house, to wait for the Labour leader.

However, as the cameras were set up, the occupant came out and told journalists the house was in fact being renovated and the tent was full of furniture and renovation materials.

Labour’s communications director Sarah Stuart redirected journalists to the party’s local office before Mr Little arrived.

At the office, Mr Little was a little lost for words and confused about which house he was earlier meant to be at.

There was a house with a tent in the yard whose occupants his MPs Jenny Salesa and Peeni Henare had been working with, he said.

An important part of an MP’s job is to help constituents.

I think that using constituents with problems for political stunts with the media is highly questionable.

However, as the cameras were set up, the occupant came out and told journalists the house was in fact being renovated and the tent was full of furniture and renovation materials.

Labour’s communications director Sarah Stuart redirected journalists to the party’s local office before Mr Little arrived.

At the office, Mr Little was a little lost for words and confused about which house he was earlier meant to be at.

There was a house with a tent in the yard whose occupants his MPs Jenny Salesa and Peeni Henare had been working with, he said.

“I haven’t been to that house, I’ll need to clarify which one that is – there was a house that I was invited to go and talk to the people of, then asked not to go, people didn’t want the level of attention,” he explained.

Labour does not look capable of managing a crowded house story let alone a country.

And it looks like Labour MPs may have a mission to find people with housing problems.

Yesterday Clare Curran posted this on a closed Dunedin News Facebook page:

Dear admin I hope this post is ok:
I am concerned that Work and Income are making calls to people living in state houses to tell them they no longer qualify for a state house and they need to find a private rental. This is despite their circumstances remaining the same. Can anyone verify this has happened to them or someone they know? Message me if you want to provide the information privately.

CurranWINZHousingpost

I thought that generally constituents went to MPs if they wanted help. Here it looks like an MP trying to find people who will help her with a story she is pursuing.

It seems odd that she claims “I am concerned that Work and Income are making calls” but then says she wants verification.

One example was given:

I know of someone who has been in a HNZ house for years and was given a month to get out so a refugee family could move in. There was no change in her income or anything else

Curran responded:

Can you get in touch and ask if she will speak to me

Another Labour housing story in the making?

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8 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  18th May 2016

    I really don’t like to kick a man when he is down but poor old Andrew Little and his minders are definitely looking like a man who couldn’t find his arse with both hands

    Reply
  2. Hall

     /  18th May 2016

    Meanwhile this little brat should keep his pie hole shut if he knows what’s good for him.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11640164

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  18th May 2016

      No worries, just leave that sort of thing to the facebook commenters’ market. Maxie can handle it. He’s grown up with it.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  18th May 2016

        I would say that if someone had been in an HNZ house for years and was given notice, it was because the house had more bedrooms than she needed-one person only needs one bedroom-and there was no justification for her keeping it. This has happened before.

        What else COULD John Key say ? WINZ is for that sort of thing, and if they can’t help, they’ll know who can.

        Reply
      • jamie

         /  19th May 2016

        No Gezza, he hasn’t grown up at all.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  19th May 2016

          That’s right Jamie, he hasn’t, but he’s already learning that when you say stupid prat things on social media people will call you a prat, and some will then be forever on your case, on the lookout for any falls, because pride & prattism cometh before a fall, and they will put the boot in really hard when the falls happen. Max doesn’t realise yet that having a rich dad is no automatic ticket to a wonderful world where nothing goes wrong and where you don’t need to be respectful to other people.

          Reply
  3. Blazer

     /  18th May 2016

    its funny…in a National supporters sort of way..

    Reply
  4. jamie

     /  19th May 2016

    “Labour does not look capable of managing a crowded house story let alone a country.”

    8 years into a National government and the people living in cars and garages are STILL the opposition’s problem, Pete?

    Reply

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