Hundreds of children homeless

Children make up more than a quarter of the Bay of Plenty's homeless population.  Photo/Michael Craig

Children make up more than a quarter of the Bay of Plenty's homeless population. Photo/Michael Craig

Hundreds of children are homeless in the Bay of Plenty, according to a new report, and one social service provider has almost been overwhelmed with emergency housing enquiries.

Nearly 2900 people were homeless in the Bay of Plenty in 2013, according to the University of Otago report called Severe housing deprivation in Aotearoa/ New Zealand 2001-2013.

The homeless - or severely housing deprived - population includes people living in "severely inadequate housing" such as shelters, crowded homes or houses without proper amenities.

The report revealed more than a quarter of the Bay of Plenty's homeless were aged under 15 and more than half under 25.

The Bay of Plenty Times has been focused on the issue this month with a series of stories tagged #ourhiddenhomeless.

Te Tuinga Whanau support service executive director Tommy Wilson said the service had almost been overwhelmed by homelessness and emergency accommodation enquiries, with seven in one morning last week.

"Given we've got a Government contract for five interventions a week and we're doing seven in one morning, you get a snapshot of the picture."

Te Tuinga focused on homeless mothers and children because they needed help the most and were willing to implement change.

It offered families accommodation at the recently opened Whare Tauranga then looked at how those families found themselves in their situation, said Mr Wilson.

"There's no point in just shuffling them around with food parcels and from one motel to the next or one marae to a motel back to a marae. You need to be able to deal with what got them there and fix them up so you don't see them again."

Mr Wilson said some of the women's partners had left, gone to jail or returned to gangs.

"There are semi-professional people that are living in make-shift accommodation because they just simply can't make do with the cost of renting and the cost of surviving."

Mr Wilson said Tauranga was going through an economic boom and a poverty boom sat alongside it. Tauranga rents had gone up more than $100 a week since 2012.

Two families with six children and four children were currently at Whare Tauranga for 12 weeks and after which they would move to more permanent accommodation.

The service hoped to open more Whare 4 Whanau, and make a serious dent on the homeless problem.

According to the University of Otago report, 846 people were homeless in Tauranga in 2013.

Of those, 90 were without habitable accommodation due to a lack of access to minimally adequate housing. They could be living rough or in a mobile dwelling. A further 180 were in non-private accommodation such as a night shelter, Women's Refuge or marae. Another 576 were living temporarily in a crowded dwelling.

Nationally, the prevalence of homelessness grew by 15 per cent between the 2006 and 2013 censuses, compared with a 9 per cent increase between 2001 and 2006.

In 2013, there were at least 41,000 homeless New Zealanders, or about one in every 100 New Zealanders.

More than half of homeless adults were working, studying, or both. More than half of the homeless population were younger than 25.

People identifying in Pacific, Maori or Asian groups were over-represented in the homeless population. Migrants, especially new migrants, were at particular risk of homelessness, according to the report.

Census data and administrative data from emergency accommodation providers were used to measure severe housing deprivation.