Chris Lynch: Exploding homelessness rate is a national disgrace

Author
Newstalk ZB Staff,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 10 July 2018, 6:34PM
Social agencies and the Government talk a big game, but what are they actually doing to fix the situation? (Photo / NZME)

Why are social service agencies so scared of taking responsibility for New Zealand's homeless and why are we seeing more beggars on the streets?

The homeless situation is exploding, if walking down Queen Street in Auckland is anything to go by.

Seven years ago, when I lived in Auckland, on occasions you'd see one or two homeless people begging.

Today, the situation is vastly different. You could actually mistake Queen Street for LA's Venice Beach at night.

The situation in Christchurch is just as bad, and now the council is pretending to care by announcing a "multi-agency approach."

What a cop-out - this is just another way for multi agencies to pass the buck when the going gets tough.

A so-called multi-agency approach makes the situation more complex than it needs to be, with various so called charities pushing in front of each other to say "look at me, we're dealing with the problem”, when in reality, they're just generating a sound bite for the national news.

The Salvation Army in Christchurch has rebuilt its headquarters in the central city. It comes complete with a decent sized community hall.

Every time I drive past it at night, lights are off and no one is home. Remember, this is the agency that often releases reports on the homeless crisis.

They do great work particularly with drug and alcohol abuse, but are they making full use of their multi-million dollar complex in downtown Christchurch?

I emailed them, but they haven’t responded.

Police say they will commit more officers to the central city within the next three to six months to help address the issues with beggars and those sleeping rough.

What is stopping police from intervening now?

On a positive note, the City Mission plans to have outreach social workers on the ground seeing what’s going on.

What is happening in Christchurch is a shame. Many small businesses are doing it tough. Not only are they having to work with a council obsessed with removing on street parks in favour of cycleways, they're also dealing with aggressive behaviour of beggars and homeless people.

Popular hotels in the city are getting unfair reputations on travel websites because they're surrounded by perceived danger.

The reality is, while well-intended, some charities haven’t be able to reduce homeless numbers, which is why is the council is employing a full time community worker to be stationed at the city's new library to talk to homeless people.

By the looks of it, the role is much needed, but as several librarians have pointed out to me on my radio show, they're frustrated their job function have extended to social work.

It's time to turn the spotlight on the social service agencies and charities tasked with dealing with the homeless crisis.

Furthermore, this Government loves saying it's for the people. Then let's see some meaningful action, because what I'm seeing is a national disgrace.

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