City to be first to trial youth housing facility

Dunedin Methodist Mission practice leader Charles Pearce (left) talks to  (from left) Immigration...
Dunedin Methodist Mission practice leader Charles Pearce (left) talks to (from left) Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, Dunedin Methodist Mission business and development leader Jimmy McLauchlan and Social Housing Minister Amy Adams about plans to open a youth transition home in Dunedin yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson.
Dunedin will be the first city in New Zealand to trial a youth housing facility to keep at-risk youth, including those who engage in prostitution in exchange for accommodation, off the streets.

Yesterday, the Methodist Mission and Minister for Social Housing Amy Adams announced a transitional youth housing facility would open in the city in January. Mrs Adams was in Dunedin on an election campaign visit.

The Government would provide about $700,000  over the next two years to convert an existing property and pay service delivery costs for a pilot programme for 48 of Dunedin’s most vulnerable youth.

The announcement follows revelations 11 of 300 at-risk youth  who responded to a 2015 Methodist Mission survey swapped sex for a place to stay.

The survey also showed 15 (5%) of respondents lived in boarding houses, and 7% slept rough.

Dunedin Methodist Mission business and development leader Jimmy McLauchlan said six young people at a time would spend 12 weeks in the residence in Woodhaugh St. The residence would be staffed around the clock and support would be offered by social workers and counsellors.

Facility residents  would be required to be enrolled in ongoing education or employment while living there, he said.

"After the 12 weeks, if they are ready to go on to the next step, we will support them to find a flat and provide ongoing support.

"But if they are not ready, we certainly won’t be kicking people out."

If the facility could transition 24 youth a year  it would be making a "sizeable" impact.

"Sadly though, I think we are going to have a lot of demand on our facility. These are issues that are not just going to go away."

The facility would not be suitable for youth who had been convicted of crimes such as sexual assault and violence and an emphasis would be put on integrating youth into the community.

Neighbours of the facility had been consulted, he said.

Methodist Mission southern director Laura Black said if the pilot proved successful she hoped similar youth transition homes would be opened throughout the region.

Feedback from those who attended the Methodist Mission’s Next Step training programme had informed the type of accommodation that would be offered, she said.

"They are coping with stuff that would leave me crumpled at the end of the bed.

"Sometimes they are too tired to concentrate on learning because they are putting all their energy into finding places to stay."

Mrs Adams said the facility would be the first of its kind in New Zealand.

"If this works, I think it will absolutely go further, not only in Dunedin but around the country."

The facility would be one of 1670 transitional facilities established using a $354million fund set aside for transitional housing.

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