Press Release – New Zealand Coalition To End Homelessness
On the 10th October people around the world will mark World Homeless Day. Three events will mark the day in Wellington: a parliamentary breakfast, a lunchtime event in Civic Square with a barbecue hosted by DCM’s service users and entertainment from the DCM Ukes Matawaka, and in the evening a benefit concert of old-style gospel music to support the organisations which work with marginalised people in the city of Wellington.
World Homeless Day will also be recognised in other centres around New Zealand.
It is disappointing that our Minister of Housing, Nick Smith, keeps insisting that New Zealand does not have a definition of homelessness. Any New Zealander can Google ‘definition, homelessness, New Zealand’ and access the Statistics New Zealand’s work on developing such a definition. Homelessness is defined in a New Zealand context as “living situations where people with no other options to acquire safe and secure housing are without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodation with a household or living in uninhabitable housing”.
For too long the media has focused on rough sleepers, yet they are just the tip of the iceberg of homelessness in this country. A new University of Otago study provides the first measure of homelessness in New Zealand, finding that 34,000 people suffer “severe housing deprivation”. The study states that on any given night in New Zealand, 1 in 120 people were unable to access housing and that one quarter are children under the age of 15.
Overseas experience and this New Zealand study confirm that the first step in addressing homelessness is increasing the stock of affordable rental accommodation. Any response to homelessness needs to begin with homes – with the Otago study suggesting a bare minimum of 21,000 extra such houses are needed to accommodate New Zealand’s homeless.
The figures are clear – homelessness IS an issue in New Zealand, and we need to acknowledge and address this. On World Homeless Day, the New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness calls on the government and people of New Zealand to show the courage to make this a priority and to restore this basic human right to those New Zealanders who are homeless today.