A dedicated service for people sleeping rough in Tauranga will be established in the CBD following the announcement from the Minister of Housing and Urban Development that The People's Project will deliver a Housing First service in the city.
The People's Project, which has been very successful in addressing homelessness for rough sleepers in Hamilton, was established by the Wise Group.
Last year, the Group was invited by Our Community Project to work together to design and develop a similar solution for Tauranga.
OCP is a multi-agency group representing key organisations dedicated to finding sustainable solutions for ending homelessness in Tauranga.
OCP chair Steph O'Sullivan says the increase in rough sleepers in the city had deeply concerned the community.
“It is great to see the need here in Tauranga recognised by central government and to know we will now have a well-resourced and nationally and internationally evidenced response in place to work with some of our community's most vulnerable people.
“We've acted as a community, taken a partnership approach and through sheer determination supported and championed the need for a long-term solution to rough sleeping in Tauranga.
“We recognise all members of OCP and The Wise Group for their expertise and experience and look forward to continuing this journey, working together on this very complex issue,” says Steph.
The People's Project lead Julie Nelson said the team was delighted to have the opportunity to bring a model (Housing First) to Tauranga that has proven nationally and internationally, over and over again, to work well for ending homelessness for long-term rough sleepers.
“Having worked with rough sleepers in Hamilton over the past three years, we have an in-depth knowledge of what works.
“There are similarities between Tauranga and Hamilton, in that we started working in Hamilton with a specific group of people who were known to council staff and police around the city for sleeping rough.
“Three years on and we have a team that is fully trained in the evidence-based Housing First approach, and which has currently supported 867 people into 486 households,” says Julie.
Tauranga City Council Councillor Leanne Brown says the announcement is welcome news for all of the city's residents, but most importantly for the people experiencing the most chronic homelessness.
“We'd like to sincerely thank Minister Salesa for acknowledging the real need in Tauranga and funding an effective solution for the 80 or so people in our city who need this type of really intensive support.
“We've been working on finding a sustainable solution to end homelessness in Tauranga for some time. We're looking forward to The People's Project being established in Tauranga to deliver a Housing First service which has a proven track record of success. But we also need to acknowledge that once it is established people's circumstances won't change overnight.
“It's going to be a marathon, not a sprint, but this is the catalyst we needed to help us get out of the starting blocks.
“Positive change absolutely will happen for people, and it will happen sustainably to ensure their long-term success,” says Leanne.
The People's Project will be funded by the Ministry of Social Development to work with 100 rough sleepers in Tauranga over the next two years.
“Ms Nelson said no single organisation working alone can end homelessness, and that it takes a community working together to address the issue.
“For the past year, through OCP, we've been building relationships with local providers that are already working with different groups of homeless people in the city, such as the Night Shelter
“They are very supportive of having a service to work alongside them to find permanent homes for these folk, and to provide ongoing support for people who have very complex needs.”
When it comes to ending homelessness for rough sleepers, Ms Nelson says the evidence supports people having immediate access to permanent housing as what works best, but she says Tauranga's transitional and emergency housing providers play an incredibly important role, particularly when people are in crisis so that their needs can be responded to immediately by keeping them safe and off the street.
“We'll be working closely with Tauranga's emergency, transitional and community housing providers so that we can support people through the housing continuum. There is a need for all our services to work together as part of a whole of systems approach,” she says.
Ms Nelson says it had not been possible to start The People's Project service before the contract was confirmed with the Ministry, but now that it was, the immediate focus would be on getting established as quickly as possible.
“We will set up an office in the CBD and work quickly to recruit and put in place a team with the right skill set. It is our preference to appoint local people who have strong connections in the community.”
Ms Nelson acknowledged the supply and affordability of housing stock was an issue for Tauranga as a community, as it was for many New Zealand centres.
“In Hamilton, the housing we've sourced has come from all sectors - private, government and community.
“We will actively work with our colleagues here in the public and community housing areas, as well as move quickly to establish, build and maintain relationships with private sector landlords, including property rental companies and agencies to find appropriately located and priced houses for people to start making their homes.”
The People's Project is aiming to be open and operating by April. Following this, it will make the results of its work available on its website on an ongoing basis – www.thepeoplesproject.org.nz.