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Why does Lifewise regard people with lived experience as experts? Watch this video to find out.

In 2016, four people with lived experience of homelessness worked with Lifewise to co-design and begin the ground-breaking Housing First programme. The programme now provides permanent housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness along with wraparound support. (Click here to know more.)

This Housing First co-design process identified the need for the involvement of people with lived experience. Volunteers who have experienced long-term rough sleeping in Auckland’s city centre derive determination, drive, passion and confidence from this work. They form the Merge Community Peer Team, based out of Lifewise Merge Café. While the Café provides 20,000 low-cost meals annually and a vibrant safe place for the whole community to connect, the Merge Community Peer Team provides support and advocacy to people in the homeless community through the Café.

The Team’s strength lies in the fact that they bring a kaupapa Māori approach to their engagement with people that distrust government services. They counter the “us and them” culture, where professionals are seen as experts, and the homeless are seen as “clients” that services do things to. The Team empowers people with lived experience of homelessness to take part in decision-making and influence the systems that affect them.

Click below for a PDF copy of the Lifewise Peer Support and Lived Experience Strategy.