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Moving city’s homeless into housing during covid-19 crisis

News from WCC
For some of Wellington’s homeless, home during the lockdown can mean a tent in the bush, a park bench or a sheltered spot at the entrance of a high-rise – and that’s where the DCM comes in. The Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) is open and operating and supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness – people who DCM call taumai, meaning ‘to settle’.

On a normal day, the DCM works with their taumai, finding housing, supporting them to access a benefit and manage their money, and connecting to whānau, health and other services and supports. Essentially their service is based around supporting taumai into sustainable housing and adjusting to life off the streets.

While the DCM has had to make changes in response to the Covid-19 lockdown, they are adapting to the new circumstances, ensuring their taumai are supported and balancing that with the requirement to comply with the Level 4 alert.

“We’re committed to continuing to support people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness through the crisis period,” says Stephanie McIntyre, DCM Director.

“We have identified a group of the most marginalised taumai – these have been assigned to a support team and they will be supported across a number of areas, including money management and access to income, food support, emergency housing, connection to mental health support, and access to medication. Where possible, kaimahi are keeping in touch with taumai by calling them on mobile phones we have provided them with.

“Kaimahi are rostered to share the task of supporting rough sleepers into Emergency Housing over this period and we have also set up an 0800 number for taumai to call us on.”

As lead funding agency to DCM, the Wellington City Council has been proactively planning and implementing changes supporting the organisations to accommodate its homeless.

Council’s Community Services Manager and Emergency Welfare Manager Jenny Rains says that it’s been a very busy few weeks to make sure that people are looked after and connected.

“In the last week, we’ve heard of incredible stories of DCM staff working very hard with other cross sector organisations, implementing all the pre-planning of moving many of our street homeless into accommodation and making sure outreach and support services are still available to their taumai,” she says.

“It’s a huge task in this uncertain environment, and DCM kaimahi do a really fantastic job of moving mountains to get these people into their own accommodation.”

The City Council has taken a sector-led approach to ensure the needs of the street community are being met during the Covid-19 response. The agencies included in this are DCM, Kahungunu Whānau Services, The Wellington Night Shelter, The Soup Kitchen, Wellington City Mission, Wellington Women’s House and the Women’s Homeless Trust.

Jenny says: “A number of agencies working with the street and at risk communities are finding that donations for household items and food banks have dried up. As food and general household donations from the public need to be put on hold due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the organisations require funding assistance so they can buy directly from suppliers.

“For instance, we have the Compassion Soup Kitchen delivering meals to agencies like DCM to their taumai. However, the need is increasing which is putting pressure on these organisations to sustain its services.”

Wellington City Council Homelessness portfolio holder Councillor Teri O’Neill says together we are working hard to make sure that anyone who requires support is able to have access to these organisations when they need it.

“We’d like to make Wellingtonians aware that there are so many ways they can make a difference to many people in our vulnerable communities, many of whom need support that we tend to take for granted.

“A crisis can teach us a great deal. Not just about who we are, but also how we care for one another. In times like these, we find that people want to help, and it is from the goodness of others that the most vulnerable in our communities are given support they need in times of crisis,” she adds.

Deputy Mayor Sarah Free says she is impressed and grateful for the way in which the city is working collectively to look after those who are most vulnerable.

“The present situation shows the value of the networks and partnerships we’ve built up in easier times. Now these are literally lifesavers and I know Wellingtonians will want to do what they can to help in that.”

To make a difference, you can donate:

DCM: https://www.dcm.org.nz/support-dcm

Compassion Soup Kitchen: https://soupkitchen.org.nz/donate/donate-money/
Wellington City Mission: https://wellingtoncitymission.org.nz/want-to-help/donate/
Wellington Night Shelter: http://www.wellingtonnightshelter.org.nz/donate/

Kaibosh: https://www.kaibosh.org.nz/donatefunds/
Kiwi Community Assistance: https://www.kca.org.nz/help-us/donate-funds