Members of Manaaki Rangatahi Youth Homelessness Collective Image supplied by Community Housing Aotearoa
A Waitangi Tribunal report has exposed the government’s failure to adequately protect and support vulnerable rangatahi. According to statistics, 50 percent of people experiencing homelessness in New Zealand are under 25.
“Kāinga Kore: The Stage One Report of the Housing Policy and Services Kaupapa Inquiry on Māori Homelessness” primarily evaluates the Crown’s response to Māori homelessness. The report is stage one of a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into housing policy and Māori homelessness. It emphasises the lack of support for homeless rangatahi, and highlights breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles related to active protection and good governance.
Government inaction and a lack of sufficient data led to missed opportunities and failure to effectively tackle the problem. Housing advocates warmly welcome the report as it brings attention to the distressing problem of rangatahi homelessness and exposes the government’s inadequate response.
Expert witness and Manaaki rangatahi coordinator Bianca Johanson has spent years advocating for rangatahi and says it’s a huge relief to see the severity of the issue highlighted.
“We have long awaited data and research to shed light on the exhausting and distressing human rights problem our rangatahi face: having no safe and warm place to go.”
The Kāinga Kore report highlights the distressing issue of rangatahi homelessness and serves as a call to action.
“It is hoped that the report’s findings will act as a catalyst for urgent measures and bring about meaningful change for vulnerable rangatahi in desperate need of housing support and services,” says Bianca.
Manaaki Rangatahi Youth Homelessness Collective, Image supplied by Community Housing Aotearoa
Breaching the Principle of Active Protection
One of the key findings highlighted in the report is the government’s breach of the principle of active protection. The Crown has a duty to actively protect Māori rights and interests, including their cultural, economic, social, and political well-being.
The report reveals that the government has not taken sufficient action to safeguard this vulnerable group, failing to provide the necessary support and resources. Rangatahi homelessness requires a proactive and targeted approach, but the government’s response has fallen short of meeting these demands.
Neglecting the Principle of Good Government
In addition to the breach of active protection, the report also points out the government’s failure to obtain adequate data on rangatahi homelessness, violating the principle of good governance. The Crown to govern in a manner that is transparent, fair, and serves the best interests of all, including Māori.
Accurate and comprehensive data is crucial for formulating effective policies and strategies. By neglecting to gather this information, the government has hindered its ability to develop targeted solutions and address the root causes of rangatahi homelessness.
Consequences of Inaction
The repercussions of the government’s inaction are significant and far-reaching. Rangatahi facing homelessness often experience adverse effects on their physical and mental well-being, education, and prospects. By not prioritising the needs of this vulnerable group, the government perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage and hinders their potential for a brighter future.
Image: Maia Ratana, Researcher at Pūrangakura
The Crown also acknowledges that a lack of data specific to rangatahi Māori housing needs is a problem. Rangatahi housing researcher Maia Ratana says, “In our recent youth homelessness report, we recognised the urgent need to develop robust evidence that informs housing policy and delivery to end youth homelessness. We also found that there are significant data and research gaps concerning youth homelessness. It is good to see the tribunal acknowledge the various Crown failings including the failure to collect adequate data, particularly in the case of rangatahi.”
Given the report’s findings, advocates and experts emphasise the pressing need for immediate government action to tackle rangatahi homelessness.
It is acknowledged that the recent investment in expanding the provision of youth transitional housing in Budget 2023 is a step in the right direction, as recognised by advocates. Nonetheless, the findings in the report regarding the government’s failure to safeguard and assist rangatahi experiencing homelessness underscore the urgency for change.
It is crucial that the government takes proactive measures, prioritises accurate data collection, and further collaborates with Māori communities to address this critical issue. By doing so, they can ensure the well-being and future prospects of rangatahi, enabling them to thrive and make positive contributions to society.
The full report can be located at Kāinga Kore : The Stage One Report of the Housing Policy and Services Kaupapa Inquiry on Māori Homelessness