In November 2017, Council asked officers to examine homelessness in Lower Hutt, the range and depth of services available to homeless people and families, and what Council’s role might be in addressing homelessness.
Following this research, Council has started a second phase of research and stakeholder engagement to develop a homelessness strategy and action plan for the city.
Homelessness is a complex and wide-ranging problem that no one institution, sector or community can solve. While the development of the homelessness strategy is being led by Council, Council is acutely aware it will only be successful if the strategy is owned by the entire Lower Hutt Community, and used to develop solutions and coordinate services.
Homelessness in Lower Hutt
Homelessness is defined as a living situation where people have no option to acquire safe and secure housing. This can include sleeping rough or in vehicles, living temporarily with friends or family or in hostels, motels or overcrowded or unsafe dwellings.
Homelessness is difficult to measure precisely. Census figures suggest it increased in Lower Hutt by 41 per cent between the 2006 and 2013 censuses to 913 people. However, there have been increases in the number of people in temporary and emergency housing – including hostels – over the past two years. As homeless people are often in transient situations or difficult to contact, the true number is higher than official data indicates. Social service agencies and the Ministry of Social Development believe housing hardship and homelessness have increased over the last two years.
The underlying causes of homelessness are structural – poverty, a lack of affordable housing, inequality and government policy. A person or family’s individual circumstances, that can make them more susceptible to becoming homeless, include poor physical or mental health, inadequate income and financial problems, relationship breakdown or family violence and alcohol or drug abuse. Age is also a factor, with a worrying number of Lower Hutt’s young people lacking secure housing.
All it can take to push a family out of their homes is a redundancy, unexpected costs, a relationship breakdown or a period of illness.
What has Council done so far?
Council staff completed research into homelessness in Lower Hutt in April 2018. This included interviewing people experiencing homelessness people and representatives of social service agencies working with the homeless people.
View the results of the survey of people living with homelessness (PDF 298.8 KB)
What happens next?
Council is now undertaking another round of engagement with people with a lived experience of homelessness and with social service agencies working in the field of homelessness.
A draft strategy is expected to be completed and presented to Council’s Policy and Regulatory Committee meeting in November. A homelessness action plan will follow in early 2019.
While Council is already working on initiatives that address housing affordability, it will also review housing supply in the city in the near future.
For further information, please contact:
John Pritchard - Principal Research and Policy Advisor
T: 04 570 6838