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Homelessness and COVID-19 in New Zealand: Challenges, emergency responses, and implications for disaster risk reduction

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Habitat International, 139, 102885

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This article presents an examination of the experiences of homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on Aotearoa New Zealand.

The authors utilise qualitative methods, specifically semi-structured interviews, to gather insights from homeless individuals and key informants, including government and non-government organisation representatives. This approach sheds light on the compounded vulnerabilities faced by homeless people in times of disaster, emphasising their lack of access to essential resources, such as shelter, healthcare, and sanitation facilities. A significant contribution of this study is its critique of existing disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies, which often exclude or inadequately address the needs of homeless populations. The authors argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and amplified these policy gaps, despite efforts in some countries, including Aotearoa New Zealand, to provide emergency shelter and support services. The research highlights the resilience and community support mechanisms within the homeless population, challenging stereotypes and emphasising their agency. Furthermore, the study points out the growing issue of homelessness in Aotearoa New Zealand, citing statistics on the increasing numbers and the disproportionate impact on Māori and Pacific Islander populations. It calls for a more inclusive and coordinated approach to DRR that involves collaboration with homeless communities, maraes, and various government and non-government agencies. In conclusion, the authors advocate for further research and policy development that recognises the complexity of homelessness and its intersection with disaster risk. They emphasise the importance of developing tailored strategies that address the specific needs and strengths of homeless populations to enhance their resilience and ensure their inclusion in DRR planning and implementation.

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