Can this really be New Zealand? The CAB is asking this question after carrying out an analysis of the situations of people coming to them in need of emergency accommodation.
Their in-depth analysis of over 2000 client enquiries about emergency accommodation shows vulnerable families, pregnant women and children living in cars and garages, even after seeking assistance from the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand. Many of these families have the highest priority on the social housing register. View the full report here.
“The worst thing is that often we are unable to find people emergency accommodation, because there is a shortage nationwide”, says Kerry Dalton, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand. “This is very distressing for the people coming to us and for our volunteers, who cannot offer options to alleviate these desperate situations.”
It means that vulnerable women and children are left having to sleep in cars, garages, on couches, in overcrowded rooms or on the floor at friends’ or relatives’ places, says Ms Dalton.
“For many individuals and families who have nowhere to live, the safety net that we all expect for ourselves and our fellow New Zealanders in times of desperate need is just not there.”
These dire situations are not just occurring in Auckland and Christchurch, says Ms Dalton. There is a shortage of social housing nationwide, which means that many people who are in urgent need of accommodation are facing long waiting times on the social housing register. Then, because of the lack of emergency accommodation, some end up in living situations that meet the official definition of homelessness while they wait for a house.
The situation does not appear to be improving, says Ms Dalton, in fact in the past 5 years this has been our fastest growing area of enquiry. In the year to the end of June 2015, CABs received over 3000 enquiries about emergency accommodation. Five years ago we had half that number. The tragedy is that, because of the shortage of emergency accommodation, in many instances CABs are not able to find suitable options for people. That’s why we are speaking out.
The CAB is calling on government to put in place processes that support both Housing New Zealand and Work and Income to do more and to do so quickly. When there is no emergency housing available, the government must support people into other temporary accommodation.
“We urgently need to reinstate the safety net for people who, for whatever reason, have no place to call home and are desperate for emergency housing.”
Contact: Kerry Dalton, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand
04 382 8759
021 459 678
Citizens Advice Bureaux is an independent community organisation offering a free, confidential and independent service of information, assistance and referral from 83 locations stretching from Northland to Invercargill. Last year volunteers received over 500,000 enquiries on issues ranging from health and family, electricity, immigration, housing and employment to consumer rights.