New Zealand’s homelessness statistics continue to alarm, with more than 41,000 Kiwis currently facing severe housing deprivation. Almost half of these New Zealanders are below the age of 25 and a quarter of them are children.
The causes of youth homelessness are complex but can include family breakdown and conflict, anti-LGBT discrimination, poor mental health, substance abuse and addictions. All of these issues are deeply rooted in society and difficult to combat. Being forced to sleep outdoors, which is the most extreme form of homelessness, tends to be the most visible part of what is in reality a much larger issue.
The Young and the Homeless
On 6th July 2017, Auckland social development agency Lifewise is inviting business and community leaders to experience life on the streets through the annual Big Sleepout. This year, Lifewise aims to raise $350,000 through this event, which will be used to address the issue of youth homelessness.
The focus of our efforts will be on supporting young people who experience homelessness, helping them move into permanent homes and providing the assistance they need to sustain their tenancy. Last year’s Sleepout had 130 participants who helped raised more than $300,000. But this time, in its eighth year, the event is aiming higher.
Stripped of all comforts, leaders from all walks of life including business, community and political spheres will spend one night on cold concrete in the midst of winter, receiving an insight into what it means to sleep rough. Their commitment will be acknowledged by donations from family, friends, colleagues and the public. Every single dollar raised goes towards Lifewise’s efforts to end homelessness.
Homelessness in Auckland: A Crisis that Needs Addressing
Even though it is a nationwide issue, homelessness is most prevalent in Auckland, with rents and mortgages skyrocketing out of control. Recent estimates have indicated a sharp rise in the number of rough sleepers in central Auckland, with almost 200 people rough sleeping within three kilometres of Sky City. It is important to remember that homelessness includes anyone living on the streets, in bus shelters, in parks, in their cars and in extremely overcrowded conditions.
Census data from 2013 indicates that 1 percent of New Zealand’s population can be considered ‘severely housing deprived,’ up from 0.8 percent in 2006. Of this percentage, 10 percent are living without shelter, such as on the street, in a car or in another improvised dwelling. Apart from the human costs, homelessness is also an economic issue, with an estimated $65,000 taxpayer dollars being spent on each homeless person annually through use of emergency services, police, justice, and welfare services – with no improvement in a person’s well-being.
The internationally successful Housing First model is founded on the belief that housing is a basic human right, and is much more cost effective than maintaining people on the street. This approach is based on international evidence that when you house people first, then align the support services they need to be successful in their lives, the cycle of homelessness stops. However, with homelessness in New Zealand rising, the demand for Lifewise’s services is constantly growing, making fundraising efforts like the Big Sleepout crucial. In addition to raising funds, the Lifewise Big Sleepout aims to deconstruct misconceptions surrounding homelessness, with a particular focus on youth this year.
If you are interested in participating or finding out more about the Lifewise Big Sleepout, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about community and family services and how to make a donation to this important cause.