Homelessness is pervasive, persistent and much broader than just houselessness. The most common forms of homelessness are not visible and are likely to affect people in nearly every neighbourhood. Broadly, it can be defined as a state of being, experienced by a person when they do not have access to a home that provides; shelter, safety, permanent residency, a healthy environment, connection to a community, and a sense of belonging.
This “lack of home” is significant to the point that it reduces a person’s ability to thrive physically, financially, mentally and spiritually.
Currently, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in New Zealand, defines homelessness as more than sleeping rough, “it includes people who are without shelter, in emergency and temporary accommodation, and living temporarily in severely overcrowded accommodation.”
We believe it reaches further and touches more.
We estimate that more than 100,000 individuals in New Zealand are living in a state of homelessness.
When we consider what home means to us, we don’t just think about four walls. It’s about our place in the world. It is a state of being. It means identity, belonging, safety, provision, security, rest and privacy.
Consider episodic homelessness, a state of flux which sees people falling in and out of temporary housing due to abuse, prejudice, addiction, mental health issues, trauma or debt.
Or transitional homelessness; brief periods of homelessness caused by major events like redundancies, health issues, relationship breakdowns or natural disasters.
Consider a city like Auckland, where the cost of living continues to rise on all fronts, where some households live on razor-thin budgets.
Homelessness is a constant wolf at their door. If we were to include those that have a roof over their head, but are isolated, lacking a sense of belonging, unwelcome or unsafe, then the number of people homeless in our country would reach many more hundreds of thousands.
"University of Otago researchers and the Ministry of Housing, found that 102,123 people (2.2 percent of the population) are “severely housing deprived,”. Almost half of them are under the age of 25. When you include those experiencing insecurity of tenure, a leading cause of homelessness, this figure is likely to triple."
According to Article 25 of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services"
As a founding member of the United Nations, we believe Aotearoa should uphold all human rights and we want to be part of making that happen. Homelessness is not a distant ill of society. Most of us will experience homelessness in one of its many forms at some point in our life. Nor is the right to a home a new battle. Our ancestors fought to secure homes for their descendants for centuries.
We want to continue that fight.
Partnering, supporting, collaborating, sharing and learning with others, we believe we will see an end to homelessness.
The right to housing is the right to live in peace, security and dignity, and to equality and non-discrimination with respect to housing.
If Aotearoa is to fulfil its legal commitment to uphold Article 25 of the Declaration of Human Rights, it must recognise Te Ao Māori and the worldview of many pacific, Asian and other communities in Aotearoa. To understand that housing is much more than a physical structure and align with the NZ Human Rights Commission reference to Article 25 as the ‘right to a decent home’.
Within the Framework Guidelines on the right to a decent home in Aotearoa (which can be read in full at the link below) the NZ Human Rights Commission outlines that all housing initiatives must comply with the seven UN ‘decency’ housing principles read with Te Tiriti o Waitangi: habitable; affordable; accessible for everyone; services, facilities and infrastructure; location; respect for cultural diversity; and security of tenure.
As we pursue this goal, we are compelled to address the lack of equality, discrimination and inequity evident in our country.
Māori suffer some of the worst housing outcomes in the country. Tangata whenua, who represent 16.5 per cent of the national population according to the 2018 census, are disproportionately represented among homeless populations, experience a higher rate of disability than non-Māori, have some of the lowest median weekly incomes and represent 60% of those who receive Emergency Housing and Special Needs Grants for short term emergency accommodation. A Māori person is four times more likely to live in overcrowded housing conditions than a person of European heritage. Homeownership rates for Māori in 2018 were 43%, compared to 63% for the general population
In short, we are not fulfilling our Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations.
Human rights and responsibilities are held by all, not just government but communities, hapū, iwi, private sector, landlords, property managers, service providers, charities and tenants. That is to say, we are all co-owners of the right to a decent home.
As we work to fulfil the right to a decent home in Aotearoa, we must align ourselves with the values of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, such as whanaungatanga (kinship), kaitiakitanga (stewardship), manaakitanga (respect), dignity, decency, fairness, equality, freedom, wellbeing, safety, autonomy, participation, partnership, community and responsibility.
In our shared humanity, we share the burden of an unmet human right. The truth is that it could be us or it may be the future of our tamariki.
We want to build a world where there is no possibility of a person being stuck in homelessness. Where everyone has access to a home.
We join with those that are providing solutions and we invite you to join with us. How can we build community where we live? What can we do or give to help another have a sense of belonging? What support can we give to organisations that are helping people who are homeless and providing solutions for them to move along the housing continuum? How can we make having a home an equitable, non-discriminatory and equal right for all?
Each one of us has a role in eradicating homelessness. The challenge is to get educated and understand the problem, then seize the opportunity to be part of the solution.
If you would like to know more about the work that is being done to end homelessness, sign up to our newsletter and we’ll share with you what we learn. We would also love to hear about what you are doing to eradicate homelessness, so please get in touch.