A significant step in addressing Capital’s homelessness is being made with the launch of the Housing First programme in the Wellington area.

The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, the Hon. Phil Twyford, today announced the launch of the programme in Wellington City and Lower Hutt.

Housing First is an internationally recognised programme that puts homeless people with multiple, high and complex needs into secure housing. It recognises it is much easier for people to address complex issues such as mental health problems and addiction, once they are housed.

The approach is to provide housing quickly then offer tailored support for as long as needed to help people stay housed and address the issues that led to their homelessness.

Phil Twyford announced the launch of two programmes, one to be delivered by Kahungunu Whanau Services and the other by a collective led by DCM, which includes Emerge Aotearoa, the Wellington Night Shelter and the Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust.

“Housing First turns people’s 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,” said Phil Twyford.

“Homelessness is the sharp end of the housing crisis. Our Government wants to stop people falling through the cracks and becoming homeless in the first place which is why we’ve made it an investment priority for the second consecutive year.”

Mayor of Wellington Justin Lester welcomed the initiative and emphasised the need for more housing and critical services for the city’s most vulnerable.

“On any given night we know approximately 60-80 Wellingtonians are sleeping rough on our city’s streets. We know that homelessness is not an easy fix, but the housing first programme allows us to provide the wrap-around support services that people need to sustain their homes. This initiative builds on Council’s commitment to public and affordable housing in the city.

“We are delighted to partner with Housing New Zealand, DCM and Kahungunu Whānau Services to help people into a permanent home.”

Phil Twyford said Housing First has housed 720 households, including 452 children in Auckland alone since 2017. It is now helping house long-term homeless people in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Tauranga and Rotorua.

In addition to Wellington this week a Housing First programme will be operating in Blenheim on 1 July with further programmes in Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Nelson.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is funding the programme which will see the providers reach out to homeless people and proactively offer support and connect with other agencies to meet each person’s physical and mental health needs.

The Ministry strongly encouraged a collaborative approach to the delivery of the Housing First programme in Wellington, combining the resources and strengths of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Wellington City Council, Lower Hutt City Council and Providers to ensure a joined-up systems approach to resolving homelessness is in place. 

The Government allocated $197million to the national Housing first programme in the Budget this year which it said would turn around the lives of more than 1000 long-term homeless people by providing them permanent homes.

The Providers will be delivering Housing First services for up to 200 people and whānau in Wellington, including the Hutt over the next two years. The aim of the Housing First programme is to end homelessness, not just manage it. The goal is that homelessness should be brief, rare and non-recurring.