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Measuring iterative homelessness in mental health in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Parity, 30(8), 54-57

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This article explores the complex relationship between homelessness and mental health in Aotearoa New Zealand, focusing on the concept of 'iterative homelessness' among tāngata whaiora (people seeking wellness).

The authors analyse data from Statistics New Zealand and the National Programme for Integrated Mental Health Data (PRIMHD), highlighting the challenges in accurately measuring and addressing homelessness among individuals with mental health issues. The article recognises the bidirectional and interconnected nature of mental health and homelessness, noting that while not all homeless people are mentally unwell, and not all tāngata whaiora are homeless, there is a significant overlap between these two groups. The authors present data indicating a substantial number of tāngata whaiora experience housing difficulties, homelessness, or are at risk of homelessness, with these issues being particularly pronounced among Māori and Pasifika populations. Iterative homelessness, as defined in the article, refers to the ongoing cycle of moving between temporary housing, other forms of housing, or hospitalisation, with homeless individuals facing continuous risk of rough sleeping. The article discusses individual, community, and structural causes of homelessness in mental health and proposes a community development approach to address this crisis. Furthermore, the article critiques the existing data collection methods, particularly the PRIMHD’s categorization of accommodation status and the official definition of homelessness used by Statistics New Zealand. The authors argue that these methods fail to capture the full extent of homelessness among tāngata whaiora, particularly the iterative nature of their homelessness and the inadequate quality of available housing. In conclusion, Isogai and Stanley-Clarke suggest a co-design approach involving service providers, tāngata whaiora, and tāngata whenua whaiora to redefine homelessness in Aotearoa and develop a national standard for capturing homelessness and social inclusion among tāngata whaiora. This article sheds light on the hidden cycle of homelessness among individuals with mental health issues and calls for a more inclusive and accurate measurement approach to inform better policy and service provision.

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