July 26, 2022
Homeless couch surfers get short shrift
A Whangarei community advocate says officialdom is ignoring youth homelessness.
Researchers for the 155 Whare Āwhina community hub have interviewed young people aged 16 to 24 and found many were falling through gaps in the system.
Chief executive Liz Cassidy-Nelson says rangatahi Maori seem to be particularly discriminated against.
She says the problem has been growing for 20 years, but the agencies which are supposed to help have refused to see it.
“For example a young person who is couch surfing, that’s homelessness. They walk into a Work and Income office and say ‘I’m sleeping on my mater’s couch, and there’ll be another one next week’, they’ll be like ‘you’re OK then, you’ve got somewhere to sleep,’ That’s not OK, because that’s not a place to create a sense of belonging or build their identity with community, ” Ms Cassidy-Nelson says.
She says the homelessness crisis also exposes the damage done by policies that dropped support for young people in care as soon as they turned 18.
155 Whare Āwhina is working with Whare Finders and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to develop a response.