An estimated one in 100 New Zealanders are homeless with 24 per cent of the total homeless population being children and there are warnings this number could be higher.
According to 2013 census data, which was collated by the University of Otago, Wellington's Dr Kate Amore in her Severe Housing Deprivation in New Zealand study, around 41,000 Kiwis are classed as homeless.
"Before we did this we had no idea what the scale of homelessness was and if you need to address something you need to measure it and I think it has changed the conversation about homelessness," Dr Amore told 1 NEWS.
The data has always been collected every census but wasn't tapped into until 2001 when the first study by Dr Amore was published.
"This is the first work that shows the scale of the problem."
Dr Amore's study also uncovered the number of children 15 and under who are classed as homeless was close to 10,000.
"There are minors, children, sometimes on their own, but often with their family," says Dr Amore.
Discovering this last number in the 2013 census data, she predicts the number of homeless could have risen since.
Who are the homeless in New Zealand?
It was in 2009 that Statistics New Zealand, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development produced a definition for homelessness in New Zealand.
It defines homelessness as: "Living situations where people with no other options to acquire safe and secure housing are either without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodations or living in uninhabitable housing".
This includes those sleeping rough, in cars and people who are in boarding houses, camping grounds and staying in other’s lounges or garages.
"For most people we're not talking about home ownership, we're talking about accessing a place to rent so anyone who can't access a place to rent is homeless," says Dr Amore.
Although rough sleeping and families living in their cars have become the picture of what homelessness looks like in New Zealand, 70 per cent of the homeless population are living in overcrowded conditions.
"There's only a small portion of the population sleeping on the streets. Half of the overall population are under 25, so it's a lot of young people, young families."
Nearly half of the population are women and a quarter are aged 15 to 24-years-old.
What causes someone to become homeless?
Dr Amore says homelessness is largely about affordability of housing for those on low incomes with nearly half of the homeless population in work or study.
"We know if there was a plentiful supply of affordable housing we wouldn’t have a homeless problem."
Other causes of homelessness are low incomes, care and support failures and for a small proportion personal circumstances.
Homeless numbers on the rise
The next census data should reveal the current number of New Zealand's homeless population which Dr Amore says could exceed the estimated 41,000 number.
"I hate to speculate, but since 2013 there are things that have happened that make us suspect that it's worsened."
Growth in population, the shortage of homes especially in Auckland and surging house prices have largely contributed to this.
"We know from population growth and demand on housing overall that the gap in the number of new dwellings we need to house the population is at least that number in Auckland."
This is despite there being enough dwellings in New Zealand to house the total population.
"It's not a lack of housing per say it's just that it's not equitably distributed with some people having multiple houses while some people have none."
Dr Amore says both governments have worked hard to address the issue of homelessness but that the number is "many times" higher than they currently building for.
"It's a great start, but we know that the need is every day growing and growing."