Government’s ambitious $100m plan to fight homelessness gladly welcomed by those supporting the homeless, but holistic vision pertinent to successful long-term outcomes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wellington, New Zealand (Friday 4th May 2018) - The New Zealand Government is “pulling out all the stops” today as they announce an ambitious plan to combat homelessness and support people in urgent need of housing this winter. Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says that the Labour government was aiming to make 1500 extra places available this winter.
The Free Store in Wellington welcomes this long-awaited announcement and praises the government for putting a considerable amount of money where their mouth is. Director Benjamin Johnson believes that this announcement will “make a real difference for the most vulnerable in our communities as we stare down the looming winter months. No one deserves to go without the security of knowing they have a warm and safe place to rest their head.”
The Free Store daily redistributes surplus quality food from inner-city eateries to people in need from all walks of life including individuals and families who do not have a home. This includes rough sleepers, people living in their vehicles, squatters and those temporarily living with others who have generously opened their homes. Richard Bell, Community Worker at The Free Store, has supported 12 people into housing over the last year as he advocates alongside those navigating the often painfully-slow process.
While The Free Store is thankful for the government’s plans it is crucial to ensure that a multifaceted approach to supporting the most vulnerable is adopted, so as to protect against a new set of problems arising. Mr Johnson says that in their community’s context they have seen a “lack of consideration for the holistic health of a person when being housed. It’s time for our government to rehumanise housing.”
For instance, after a long year on the waitlist and sleeping rough, a Free Store customer and loyal volunteer was given 24 hours to accept an offer of housing in a distant suburb or else he would be “put back at the bottom of the list”. Since this was his only option he accepted the offer from Housing New Zealand but the unhelpful reality is that he is now extremely isolated in a location where public transport is a half hour walk away and where he is daily disconnected from his support networks, volunteering community and various health providers. Mr Johnson says that “public servants responsible for housing the homeless should consider the bigger picture, where housing is but one crucial component. This approach is an investment in flourishing communities and will benefit everyone in the long run. Being housed shouldn’t come at the expense of all the other good things in a person’s life that breed resilience and positive long-term outcomes.”
For families in particular it is crucial that being housed doesn’t create new unbearable stresses and logistical problems such as living far from their children’s school, their own place of employment or supportive family and friends.
Johnson hopes that Mr Twyford’s assertion that “Work and Income staff were ready to help anyone without a home” sits within a holistic framework of care. Mr Johnson says that their community’s kaupapa acknowledges that “people are more than just their physical needs, and when providing assistance for things such as housing or food we should try our best to see the full picture. This means looking at a range of physical, psychological and relational needs, but it also means protecting and nurturing protective factors where they already exist. We want to see those who are vulnerable placed in supportive neighbourhoods, not isolated houses that merely tick the box. It is crucial for all humans to be surrounded by a community of belonging that can support us.”
About The Free Store
The Free Store is an innovative non-profit that redistributes quality surplus food from 65 inner-city eateries to people in need from their store that is built from a converted shipping container. Since October 2014 The Free Store has been serving 100 people per night and redistributing over 370,000 items of quality food per year with a retail value of $2.6 million. The Free Store also hosts The Street Store - an annual winter popup shop clothing the homeless and others in need.
Benjamin Johnson, Director of The Free Store and Wellingtonian of The Year (2017) finalist, is available for interviews to discuss the government’s announcement.
Contact: Benjamin Johnson
+64 27 426 1790