National response to youth homelessness problem needed, frontline worker says

An Auckland youth development worker is calling for a national response and community-based solutions to tackle youth homelessness.

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Lifewise youth housing team leader Aaron Hendry says funding for programmes is needed to support young people without stable housing. Source: Breakfast

Lifewise youth housing team leader Aaron Hendry told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast this morning funding for youth-centric programmes and a coordinated approach could help alleviate homelessness. He recommended an approach similar to Housing First, which provides ongoing support to help people stay in their homes.

The Auckland-based community organisation provides wrap-around services to 16 to 24-year-olds at risk of becoming homeless, with Mr Hendry stating the problem was often inter-generational.

“In some cases, we’re seeing that their parents are on the street, and so they’re just trying to survive themselves,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people that think ‘oh, just chuck them in a home and they’ll be alright’, but there’s been a lot of trauma that has happened over their lifetime, and they need that safe space to start to actually heal.”

Mr Hendry said it was not just a matter of funding as the issue spoke to the wider “brokenness in our own communities”.

“This is an issue that starts in our own homes … before a young person becomes long-term street-entrenched, there’s been some significant things that have happened in their communities,” he said.

“A lot of young people tell us that their home wasn’t safe. The streets seem safer to them.”

He said this meant communities had a role in helping young people out.

“We can end this in our communities. We don’t need these extremely expensive services.”

Mr Hendry said while it was difficult to determine the scale of the problem, the issue was known to people who work with youth.

“This is an issue that’s existed for a very long time,” he said.

Mr Hendry said Lifewise worked with 40 to 50 young people at a time and were getting calls daily.

“It’s not an issue we want to wrestle with, because it’s huge and, I mean, they don’t really have anyone standing up for them."

Last year’s homeless count found 1,300 young people were living in temporary housing across Auckland, with children as young as 10 found on the streets.

“We don’t really have the numbers,” Mr Hendry said. “We need to get a grip on what the issue is.”

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Until homeless data is properly collected, the problem can never be solved, community groups say. Source: 1 NEWS

Social Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi told 1 NEWS more was needed to be done to collate data.

"More youth are coming forward and asking for help, which is a good thing. But it's adding to demand that we knew was out there and wasn't coming forward," Mr Faafoi said.