Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Do Less To Solve Homelessness And Achieve More

In October last year there were 147 living homeless in central Auckland city. 13 agencies, who have been part of the Auckland Homeless Steering Group, contributed to a research report earlier this year on these rough sleepers. The agencies group comprised 8 Government departments, 3 private social service agencies, 1 private company and 1 council.

In 2010, under old Auckland city, the same agencies signed a 5 year Memorandum of Understanding to develop an interagency approach for ending rough sleeping in Auckland city. In 2012, Auckland Council published the three year Homelessness Action Plan 2012-2015. So, there’s been a bit of work done by a lot of good people. But we still have a homeless problem.

The research report identified, among other things, what the triggers were to sleeping rough. As you can see from the list below, it’s not straightforward.


The causes are generational, and the responsibility both for being homeless and for providing support to homeless people is, as the Steering Group shows, multi-party.

The researchers said the principles triggers are family violence/breakdown issues. I think there are few ratepayers who would look at this list and see Auckland Council as having a key role in causing or reducing these (although council’s economic development and local alcohol policies can have an impact). But much of the rough sleeping takes place on council owned or controlled property, so council clearly has a stake in fixing this.

Len Brown has decided to spend an extra $360,000 of ratepayer funds in this area. But is this a wise use of ratepayer funds? The Homelessness Action Plan has 60 milestones across 23 activity areas so there is no shortage of ideas where to spend money. But with all the milestones and cross-agency-focus, why isn’t there more of a sense of progress and success?

If the 13 agencies who are part of the Steering Group divided the 147 rough-sleepers up between them it would be around 11 each. But I guess that’s too easy.

Obviously there are more homeless around wider Auckland and we need a systemic fix, but across the (I said this already right) 60 milestones and 23 activity areas in the Action Plan – I don’t get a sense of the fix. Frankly the 3-year and 5-year planning horizons continued in the planning documents don’t give a great sense urgency.

In conservative Utah in the USA an aggressive plan of providing state funded housing has reduced homelessness by 78%. They have focused mainly on providing one big solution.

If we want to fix homelessness in Auckland, we need to do less and achieve more.

That’s a message for the next Mayor of Auckland too.

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