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Is it a housing crisis or just housing pressure?

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Parity, 30(8), 44-45

Published Year Read Publication

Smith from Monte Cecilia Housing Trust confronts the critical issue of homelessness and housing inadequacy in New Zealand, challenging the rhetoric that distinguishes between a housing "crisis" and mere "pressure.

” Smith outlines the Trust’s mission since its inception in 1982: to provide emergency housing and aid to families in need, aiming for their successful transition to independence. The Trust, operating with a blend of full-time and part-time staff, has significantly impacted the lives of families by assisting them into social and affordable housing, coupled with advocacy services that have reached over 500 families annually. Smith critically examines New Zealand’s lack of legislative backbone to mandate effective responses to homelessness and poverty, highlighting the bureaucratic hurdles and inefficiencies within the Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) system. These systemic flaws often prevent vulnerable individuals from accessing the necessary support, further entrenching the cycle of homelessness and despair. The article sheds light on the visibility of homelessness in New Zealand, propelled into public discourse through initiatives like the ‘park-up-for-homes’ campaign and the benevolent actions of Te Puea Memorial Marae. Such movements have spurred governmental recognition and financial support for emergency housing providers, albeit with ongoing challenges in funding distribution and adequacy. Smith delves into the socio-economic factors exacerbating the housing crisis, particularly among Māori and Pacific Island families, who disproportionately suffer from poverty and housing insecurity. The Trust’s experiences reveal the dire circumstances of families resorting to emergency housing, underscoring the crisis’s severity beyond mere “pressure.” The survey conducted by Monte Cecilia on families in their housing sheds light on the financial precarity faced by many, with high levels of debt and insufficient income to cover basic living costs, let alone secure stable housing. This situation has led to an increase in the “working poor,” a demographic struggling to make ends meet despite employment. Smith calls for a bipartisan, comprehensive homelessness prevention strategy that transcends political cycles, emphasising the need for reform in the Local Government Act 2002 to align more closely with community outcomes aimed at preventing poverty and homelessness. The article concludes with a poignant reminder of the collective responsibility to address this crisis, inspired by Mother Theresa’s philosophy of helping one family at a time.

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