Government announces $197 million investment into tackling homelessness

More than 1000 homeless people will be helped into homes through the 2019 Budget, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing Minister Phil Twyford have announced today.

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Programmes to help those in need will be rolled out in more cities than ever. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government announced it will invest $197 million into the Housing First programme, $94m of which will go toward helping an additional 1044 people get housing and wraparound services.

The rest goes on providing support for the 720 households already housed. 

Ms Ardern said in a statement today, the 2019 Budget was "breaking the cycle for long-term homeless people by giving them a permanent, warm and safe home, and support services to help address the causes of homelessness".

Funding of the extra 1044 new places will bring the total number of people helped by the programme to 2700. 

"Housing is a basic human right and allows people to live with dignity," Ms Ardern said. "We are committed to tackling homelessness. That’s why we have made it an investment priority for the second year in a row by boosting support for the internationally-acclaimed programme Housing First even further."

The programme recognises that most long-term homeless people have several "complex problems", including mental health issues and addictions, she said.

Research by He Kainga Oranga at the University of Otago, in collaboration with Hamilton’s Housing First provider The People's Project, showed a high rate of the homeless people they helped had high mental health needs.

Ms Ardern said people had a higher chance of addressing such problems once they are housed. 

"It turns lives around by housing them and then connecting them with health and social services such as mental health counselling, budgeting advice, and drug and alcohol addiction treatment," she said.

Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford said homelessness was "the sharp end of the housing crisis", with the past three winters having seen record numbers of homeless people on the streets throughout the country.

"Housing First has housed 720 households, including 431 children in Auckland alone, since 2017," Mr Twyford said. "It is now helping house long-term homeless people in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Tauranga and Rotorua, and will launch in Northland, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson/Blenheim and Wellington later this year.

"Our Government wants to stop people falling through the cracks and becoming homeless in the first place. That’s why we have made 979 more transitional housing places available since coming to office and are well on track to provide 6,400 more public housing places over four years funded in last year’s Budget."

While the Government had made good progress, according to Mr Twyford, he said the housing crisis was created over a decade ago so "isn’t going to be fixed overnight".