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Auckland homeless count hits record high

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/06/2016

Opposition parties are calling for more government action on housing after a survey of Auckland's homeless found a record number of people sleeping out on the streets.

The City Mission says it has found at least 228 people are homeless in the city's CBD, the first time the number has topped 200 since it began estimates in 2004.

Of those, 177 were found sleeping rough within three kilometres of the Sky Tower, while 51 were put up in temporary accommodation and nearby hospitals.

That compares to to 147 people in 2014, which was the first time the count reached over 100.

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly, who is on his first week in the job following the departure of long-serving Dame Diane Robertson, said the results were evidence of a housing crisis hitting the poorest, the hardest.

"It can take months, even years, for some of these people to access housing and the longer someone sleeps rough, the harder it can be to transition into living a normal life," he said.

"[We] come across people who have never had issues with drugs or alcohol before becoming homeless, who develop addictions as a way of coping with the life they are forced into."

He said the survey also found there was an increasing number of women sleeping on the streets, and the percentage of Maori rough sleepers was also on the rise.

Labour's Auckland Central-based MP Jacinda Ardern called the results "appalling".

"At some point many of those counted in this survey will have been failed by government agencies," she said.

"That needs to be acknowledged in the way we respond, as does the fact that the NGO sector has been left to pick up the pieces, often without support."

She called for the government to increase funding for both emergency accommodation and look for more solutions for long-term housing.

Green Party social housing spokesperson Marama Davidson said the results showed the government needed to get on with building more houses.

"There is a simple solution to the homelessness crisis, and that's for the government to pick up its tools and build more houses instead of making excuses," she said.

The Auckland City Street Count was conducted by 31 volunteers and staff from a group of charities.

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