Scoop report by Jeremy Wilkinson
Fifty volunteers this morning helped in Wellington’s first count of rough sleepers. The project was headed by Te Aro Health Centre, the Soup Kitchen, and Wellington City Council.
The count was undertaken between the hours of 4 and 6 am, turning up a final statistic of 15 rough sleepers.
The counters searched and recorded data using a single point in time approach to count rough sleepers in every block of the city’s downtown area but only known locations in the outlying suburban parts of the city.
This is Wellington’s first count of the homeless, despite regular counts being a common trend in cities such as Auckland and Sydney, every US state, and all counties in the UK.
Stephanie Lacey from the Wellington City Council said that targeted council funding will be more informed with data collected from the count, along with other data from the Downtown Community Ministry and Outreach.
Counters were recruited from Te Aro, The Soup Kitchen, Wellington City Council, and other community partners such as Regional Public Health, Night Shelter and the Downtown Community Ministry.
Each counter was partnered with a volunteer member of the community recruited from Rotary Club, Central Baptist Church and willing and able-bodied friends and family.
Wellington Police supported the planning and safety of the counters.
Wilsons parking security guards conducted their own survey to contribute to the count within private car park buildings owned by Wilsons
The idea for the count was first proposed by Dr Jill Wilkinson an advisor to the board of Te Aro Health Centre and lecturer of in the Shcool of Nursing at Massey University.
Its aim is to provide accurate and up to date information about the number of homeless people in Wellington, to ensure the right programmes are in place that will address the need.
In other cities where counts are conducted regularly the results are used to inform council and government policy and to address the ongoing issue of homelessness.
The street count is part of Wellington City Council’s project Te Mahana: Ending Homelessness in Wellington Strategy whose ultimate aim is to end homelessness in Wellington by 2020.
Some goals of the Te Manaha project include; improvements of affordability and access to housing, decrease in evictions, targeted health support and development of “pre-discharge protocols and guidelines for people leaving prisons, hospitals, community health facilities.”
There is a big gap in services that support people trying to get off the streets, “particularly with finding the right kind of housing for people,” said Stephanie Lacey.
The street count’s predominant goals are to connect homeless people to social services available to them and also provide data, which will better prepare these services to accommodate and assign resources to people who need them.
“It is very likely there will be a budget for successive future counts” said Jenny Rains, community services manager for the Wellington City Council.