• August 20, 2020
Many young people experiencing homelessness are being forced into unsafe housing during lockdown. PHOTO: HOUSING FIRST NZ
Front-line workers are voicing concerns for the safety of Auckland’s homeless young people as the city returns to Alert Level 3.
A 2019 count of Auckland’s homeless by Housing First and Auckland Council found more than 1300 under 18-year-olds were living in temporary or emergency housing, almost a third of the total homeless population.
Aaron Hendry, Lifewise youth housing manager, says that most emergency housing in Auckland is unwilling to take people under 18.
“Some are staying in really overcrowded and dangerous houses. Some are camped out in the bush,” says Hendry.
“They have to do what they have to do to survive.”
Mr Hendry says these young people are at particular risk of sexual abuse, addiction and mental health issues if they are not housed properly.
Bill Peace, operations manager for social service provider Strive Community Trust, says the lockdown is an especially hard time for young people experiencing homelessness.
“They have unique issues and placing them alongside adults in communal housing can sometimes put them at risk,” says Mr Peace.
“We get kids showing up on our doorstep on a Friday afternoon with nowhere to stay that night,” he says.
“So far we’ve been able to house everyone that’s come in, but we’re at full capacity now.”
In a statement to Te Waha Nui, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development says that funding to keep vulnerable people in motels has been extended until the end of March 2021.
This includes young people who were housed as part of the government's initial COVID response.
However, Mr Hendry says dedicated housing is needed to guarantee the safety of young people over lockdown.