November 30, 2023

Work to facilitate long-term housing solutions for homeless people in Whanganui

The freedom camping site for homeless people on Taupō Quay. Photo / Bevan Conley

Whanganui District Council says a dozen people without housing, who have been camping in Whanganui’s public areas, are moving into longer-term living situations.

Council statistics estimate there are about 45 homeless people registered with service providers at Taupō Quay, Anzac Parade and the Springvale car park.

Community wellbeing manager Lauren Tamehana said that, within the past two weeks, 12 people had secured long-term housing.

However, the work and support for such vulnerable people did not stop with securing a house. “Homeless people have very complex and high needs that also need to be supported for them to be successful in maintaining a long-term tenancy.”

Whanganui People’s Centre manager Sharon Semple said there had been collaborative work with private landlords and Kāinga Ora to help get social housing assessments for people.

“These people have been living in cars and campervans and there is a transition going back into their own home, and taking on the enormity of budgeting and everyday household chores.”

It was about gathering all the information about people’s needs and what their situation was. “It’s not that you always go on site and the people are going to open up to you. Sometimes that can take 10 visits.”

Community House Whanganui manager Shelly Loader said housing in the city was not a quick fix.

“The situation with homelessness is that there just is a general lack of housing and that goes through all levels of housing like rental properties, longer-term accommodation and emergency accommodation.

“It’s ever-changing and there’s a long waiting list for people.”

Figures from the Ministry of Social Development show there are currently 327 people on the social housing register for Whanganui.

In June last year, that number peaked at 384 – the highest number of people for six years.

Councillor Kate Joblin said Whanganui was short of roughly 700 homes and there was a chronic shortage of housing.

“We at council and other groups in our community are working on solutions but unfortunately these take time.”

Semple said it could be a struggle for people to get into the rental market, which could be a result of in affordability, competition for rentals or discrimination from landlords.

Some people chose freedom camping whereas others were left with no alternatives.

“People have to want to engage with services, we can’t make that choice for them, and we definitely try very hard to engage and have great success.”

Loader said there were many complicated and varying reasons for homelessness. “I think people assume that to get in that situation people have made bad choices and that’s not the case.”

Eva de Jong is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle covering health stories and general news. She began as a reporter in 2023.

Would you like to receive notifications on latest updates? No Yes