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More than $90,000 was spent on emergency housing grants in the city in a three-month period last year.
Presbyterian Support Otago practice manager Debbie Gelling said at least two people were contacting the service every day for housing help.
On Monday, when the service reopened after the Christmas break, it had five people through the door.
The culprit was Dunedin’s housing market and lack of rental properties, she said.
‘‘People are really, really struggling.’’
Three-bedroom Dunedin rental houses were being advertised yesterday for more than $500 a week in some cases.
Emergency accommodation could range from private rentals to motels and boarding houses, although some Dunedin motels would no longer take emergency accommodation cases, she said.
‘‘When emergency housing is full, which has happened a number of times, what do we do?’’ she said.
She was aware of people sleeping in cars, or on other people’s properties.
‘‘We’ve been really concerned about it for three or four years.
‘‘It’s certainly got to a point of crisis.’’
In the quarter ending September 30, 2019, 122 emergency housing grants were issued by the Ministry of Social Development in Dunedin, totalling $93,280.
That was a 76% increase on the corresponding period in 2018, when 69 grants were issued at a cost of $44,092.
There had been increases around much of Otago and Southland as well, figures show.
Ministry acting regional commissioner Sue Rissman said the supply of affordable accommodation was tight around the country, and more people were seeking help.
When people have been unable to find private, public or transitional housing, they can be eligible for an emergency grant.
Grants are given for one week at a time, and staff and clients meet regularly to explore alternative options and long-term housing.
‘‘We are here to help anyone who is homeless or living rough.
‘‘We encourage people to come and talk to us about their situation,’’ she said.