Lockdown has positive impact on homeless

Could the lockdown signal an end to rough sleeping? Former rough sleepers and community housing groups think it could.

The Ministry for Housing and Urban Development says 1114 people have been housed in 876 motel units since the alert levels were announced. On April 26, the government announced another $100 million to be spent on homelessness.

One of the new accommodation sites is Halswell Lodge in central Wellington - a block of 30 or so motel units tucked into the base of Mt Victoria.

The motel to house rough sleepers was booked under urgency for emergency accommodation when the level 4 lockdown began.

Reuben, who RNZ interviewed before the lockdown and was sleeping in a school, moved in there.

He yelled out from the balcony, where he and a few other men were chatting, that he was doing well.

In the car park below, workers from Te Aro Health, Downtown City Mission (DCM) and the DHB are head-to-toe in protective gear - here to give flu jabs and check in on the motel's newest guests.

One of those guests, Lofty, was sleeping in a carport in Wellington before the lockdown.

"I had nothing. It was just me, myself and I."

He moved into the motel a week or two into lockdown.

The last time he had a roof over his head was "ages ago" - and it's a big change.

"I wake up fresh, get up have a shower, a wash, a sleep - it makes the whole difference."

He said the lockdown made the housing process faster "by a long way".

"If it wasn't for this, I'd still be out there."

Housing process speeds up

Another guest, JR, was temporarily staying with his partner at a house in Wellington, but they had to leave.

JR said the lockdown sped up the housing process for them.

"It wouldn't have been any faster than this," he said.

"I want to thank everyone who has been supporting us and looking after us. As streeties, we have no places, no family, no friends to help us out.

"I've been a streetie, I can gladly say, most of my life, and I have learned a lot from it - to appreciate the little things that we have in life."

The little things. Like a place of your own.

"We got our own place, our own space, and our own rules to do what we want to do and how we want to do," JR said, followed by a laugh.

Groups working with the homeless community say there are almost no rough sleepers left on NZ streets.

Auckland's Lifewise peer outreach worker Raymond Paul said people who have been sleeping rough for 15 to 20 years are now in housing.

"They are liking having a warm shower, a soft bed and a bit of security."

Paul, a former streetie himself for 10 years, said having a bit of security gives people a chance to set some goals and reach out to whānau.

He said it was emotional and overwhelming how many people were now seeking support from Lifewise.

Since the lockdown, Lifewise has supported up to 70 people into emergency accommodation and is now providing ongoing, wraparound support for 50 of them.

"They are in their housing and they have kept their housing, they are thankful.

"With familiar faces in the facility with them, they don't feel alone," he said.

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