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Vicar's Musings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

22 April, 2018

My Musings today are the second in a series on Homelessness. This past week I have been in Wellington, New Zealand, visiting my father who is unwell. While over "the ditch" I came across Wellington City Council's strategy to end homelessness, which you might be interested in.

Te Mahana: Ending homelessness in Wellington. A strategy for 2014-2020
Te Mahana is a concept that speaks of the warmth found in a supportive home environment. The name Te Mahana ... points to Wellington being a place where people who have found themselves without a home have the opportunity and means to experience Te Mahana, the warmth of home. Te Mahana emerged from the collective vision of over 100 people in 2012 — government agencies, community organisations and people experiencing homelessness. Central to their vision was an inter-sectoral and coordinated approach to ending homelessness and that the particular housing solutions for Maori would be addressed in line with the Treaty of Waitangi.

Fundamental to the strategy is that, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, housing is a basic human right. It called for work at three levels:

  • Stop homelessness happening
  • Deal with it quickly when people become homeless
  • Stop people becoming homeless again

Achieving this means operating at many levels — from influencing key structures and policies in our country that can exacerbate the likelihood of homelessness to trying to assist people to resolve or manage personal circumstances that can spiral into being homeless. It involves many players.

What is Housing First? Housing First is an international approach that centres on providing homeless people with secure housing as quickly as possible — instead of requiring people to graduate through a series of steps before getting into permanent housing. People are supported to remain housed through accessing other health or life services they may need and by active tenancy support. Experience has shown that effective Housing First programmes need to be appropriately resourced in terms of access to affordable or social housing and support expertise.

The Street Outreach Team. As well as monitoring street activity, street outreach staff are the front line people who respond to alerts from the public, other agencies or the Council call centre when there are concerns about someone sleeping rough or in some difficulty on the street. The outreach service also includes about twelve of the organisations involved in the development of Te Mahana. They have initiated a rostered daily outreach walks (6 days a week) around Wellington streets to check in with the street community, especially those that are begging, rough sleeping or where there is a concern about a person's well-being. They get to know our street community pretty well and are alert to 'newcomers' who may need a hand. [They] refer people to the case management team for housing assessment and support [and have] priority access to 10 Housing NZ houses.

To find out more see: https://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/services/community-and-culture/housing/files/te-mahana-story.pdf

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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St Peter's Eastern Hill, Melbourne Australia.

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