‘Homelessness’ and inadequate housing

‘Homelessness’ has been a hot topic over the last few months, but a lot of political rhetoric gets in the way of an accurate picture. There is a significant difference between homelessness and inadequate housing, but the two are often combined as one problem.

Stuff:  Government ‘failing in most basic duty’ as 24,000 Aucklanders homeless, Labour claims

Labour has hit out at National over rates of homelessness, claiming it is failing in the basic duty of a government.

The allegations come after Auckland Council’s Homelessness Policy Project estimated 24,000 people in the region did not have adequate housing.

Phil Twyford, Labour’s housing spokesman, said the level of homelessness seen in parts of the country used to be something only seen in the United States or Europe.

“After nine years, National’s failure to address the housing crisis means we can no longer we pride ourselves on not leaving Kiwis on the streets.”

This appears disingenuous of Twyford.

Auckland Council’s Homelessness Policy Project, released on Wednesday, showed there were 20,296 people without a house in Auckland in 2013, according to census data.

SO the report is based on four year old data. They problem may well be worse by now, but the report can only guess at that.

Of those, 16,350 were sharing and couch surfing with others temporarily, 3175 were in temporary accommodation such as emergency housing, refugee camps and boarding houses, and 771 were sleeping rough.

Of the “20,296 people without a house” most of them, about three quarters of them, were living in something like a house.

Another 3175 were also accommodated, albeit temporarily. For many that will be inadequate, but they are still ‘housed’.

771 sleeping rough – actually homeless – is a lot, but it is nowhere near 20,000.

Some people choose to sleep rough. I have at times. It didn’t bother me, it was always temporary and I had other options – including staying temporarily with others – but technically I was ‘homeless’ at times.

For some people couch surfing is by choice, especially when travelling. A proportion of couch surfers will be tourists or temporary visitors, as will be some of those house sharing. Technically I’m house sharing with a family at the moment, and have been for over a year, but it’s not inadequate housing, we have the space for it.

But this may be just quibbling over some of the numbers. Except that it’s a pretty big quibble when Twyford refers to those in the ‘inadequate housing’ category as homeless. He is blatantly exaggerating.

There are real problems with housing that are a major concern.

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly said homeless people had a life expectancy that was about 20 years lower than the average life expectancy.

“One person dying on our streets or as a result of homelessness is one too many.”

Farrelly said the deaths of rough sleepers were due to myriad issues such as health problems, poor nutrition and continued exposure to the elements.

“We’ve had some very wet, cold nights in the winter so far and it is heartbreaking to think of people sleeping outside in these conditions.”

Another Labour MP trying to address housing problems – MP camps out to protest pair’s plight

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has accused the Ministry of Social Development of the ”character assassination” of two homeless Dunedin women, one of whom is pregnant.

Ms Curran is advocating for Kylie Taggart (30) and Amy Stuart (25), who are receiving emergency accommodation in motels.

Ms Curran slept in the Octagon last night in a tent to protest the women’s situation. She said she would sleep there every night until the women had a place to live.

Ms Curran said a lack of state housing and suitable short-term accommodation in Dunedin meant the ministry was relying on motels.

Each week, Miss Taggart and Miss Stuart must reapply for emergency accommodation.

Miss Taggart said she went into early labour last week and was admitted to hospital to be stabilised. She believes the stress of her situation was the cause. She is 26 weeks pregnant and has two other children in her care, while Miss Stuart has a 3-year-old daughter.

Both say they are trying hard to comply with the rules but feel harassed and belittled by Work and Income.

They were doing their best to provide a stable environment for their children in difficult circumstances.

But as is often the case this isn’t a simple story.

The Ministry of Social Development issued a statement on Friday that appeared to blame the women.

”We have been supporting both these mums with emergency housing special needs grants to ensure that they are not forced to sleep rough.

”They didn’t need to pay this money back; the priority was responding to an emergency need.

”One of the challenges we face is when clients repeatedly exhibit behaviour that makes them unattractive to landlords and many motel owners.

”What is really unfortunate is when the behaviour of some people not only affects them, but everyone in need. ‘In this case there is now two motels in Dunedin that are not willing to take any client referred by Work and Income.

”As a result the support now provided to both these women will need to be repaid,” the statement says.

Ms Curran said the women deny claims of antisocial behaviour.

But from a report on RNZ: Dunedin MP camps out in Octagon to highlight homelessness

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show landlords have taken the two women to the tenancy tribunal six times for not paying rent and damaging property.

The Social Development Ministry said it had not given up on the women, and that they had a high priority rating, but were difficult to house.

Ms Curran said the two women were forced into emergency accommodation because they have spent time in women’s refuges.

So it sounds like partners have been a part of the problem.

But it also sounds like the women have not been model tenants either.

RNZ: In a statement a short time ago the Ministry of Social Development says the two women have a high priority rating, but because they’ve repeatedly exhibited unattractive antisocial behaviour to both landlords and hotel owners, it’s been difficult to find them permanent accommodation in Dunedin.

And the Ministry’s Southern Regional Commissioner says “Following events overnight yet another motel is not willing to house one of the women, and only late today a short term alternative was found.”

“The people we work with often have a number of hurdles to overcome, and many lead chaotic lives.”

Money is obviously a major issue, but some people been put in bad situations, or have put themselves in bad situations, making accommodation difficult.

Difficult situations for some people for sure, but finding long term solutions can also be difficult.

Politicians overstating statistics doesn’t help, although I think credit is due to Curran for what she is trying to do.


  1. Brown

     /  July 20, 2017

    “.. exhibited unattractive antisocial behaviour to both landlords and hotel owners ..”

    There we go. Curran is a typical leftie – picking losers to hold up as examples of whom we should be supporting. Actions have consequences and I’m over disfunctional people looking for my sympathy and money.

    • Brown

       /  July 20, 2017

      Down tick all you like. I spent thousands of my own money on a loser in 2016 before I had to do the hard thing and say “Piss off” before my own family fell apart from the stress. That’s the feral coal face chaps and darned enlightening it was. I’m not sure what the answer is but welfare would be on my hit list because money and kindness was just another thing to abuse.

      • PDB

         /  July 20, 2017

        Quite a collection of downticks you have there……….looks unusually high

        • I’m with you Brown al the way. Anyone who chooses Curran goes to bat for them isn’t discerning.

          B must have whipped around to all his neighbours and downticked on their devices too.

        • MaureenW

           /  July 20, 2017

          I gave him an uptick to combat the downticking bot..

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  July 20, 2017

        I’m with you there, Brown. When there is no contribution from the recipient there is no point in throwing good money and effort after bad. They’ll take for ever and never change.

        • Gezza

           /  July 21, 2017

          I’m reminded of a few of the typical once-over-lightly tv1 & tv3 news or magazine-style items that I’ve seen on homeless people from time to time where they have featured some particular homeless people who made it clear that they are homeless & living on the streets by choice. They rejected assistance, from both state agencies & family/whanau.

          They were loners. They didn’t seem to be angry people. They had their daily routines. Showers at Salvation Army facilities or motor camps. Panhandling during the day, getting ready to doss down, sometimes in a particular spot every night.

          They probably have mental health problems, possibly they are under occasional supervision or treatment for them – but that’s an assumption – the telly items were never long enough, in in-depth enough for us, the viewers, to find out anything more about them.

          The other type of cases we saw or read about last year were typically of a mum with, say 8 kids, one whom’s a baby, being moved from place to place, again, no details of why they are in this position? Do the kids all have the same dad? Do they have any family? Why aren’t they helping? Where are the dads? Mum actually says very little – the reporter’s voiceover talks about how hard it is for them. Agency spokespeople get a few seconds to say they are trying their best to help them.

          I don’t want to pick apart these people’s lives – they’re entitled to respect for their privacy. But I bet I’m not the only one left thinking – are these the typical cases, and if they’re not, why do reporters pick them for their stories? And then tell us so little about them, & how much of the social housing situation is a real problem for other less extreme & more typical cases? Mums abandoned by their partners, people booted out by landlords selling their rented accommodation, etc.

          I’m just left confused about how big a problem there really is, & how much of it is down to individuals who for whatever reason actively contribute to their own poor circumstances?

  2. sorethumb

     /  July 20, 2017

    Money is obviously a major issue, but some people been put in bad situations, or have put themselves in bad situations, making accommodation difficult.
    Government Policies Blamed For House Prices (2011)

    • sorethumb

       /  July 20, 2017

      And this from Dr Greg Clydesdale who was removed from Massey for his non PC views
      Both left and right (business) are to blame. The left are pushing diversity (homogenous society is racist); see above.

  3. PDB

     /  July 20, 2017

    Labour Newsflash! – no children in New Zealand have a house! Homelessness not seen since in parts of Europe during WW2! Of these poor children 99.5% sleep in somebody else’s house – mostly their parents one.

    • Corky

       /  July 20, 2017

      These Labour dudes are on an intellectual plane that is hard for us Peons to understand..

  1. ‘Homelessness’ and inadequate housing — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition