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Homelessness increasing, research shows

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/06/2016

The number of homeless people has been gradually increasing since 2001, according to research by the University of Otago.

Researcher Kate Amore has compared census figures which she says shows one in every 130 were homeless in 2001, one in 120 in 2006 and one in 100 in 2013.

"Homelessness is worsening in New Zealand in terms of both numbers and as a proportion of the population," Dr Amore said.

"This upward trend accelerated between the 2006 and 2013 censuses, compared with the 2001 and 2006 period."

Dr Amore says if the homeless population was 100 people, 70 would be staying with extended family or friends in severely crowded houses, 20 would be in a motel, boarding house or camping ground, and 10 would be living on the street, in cars, or in other improvised dwellings.

Labour leader Andrew Little says there are more than 41,700 homeless people which is "an utter tragedy".

"That's a population the size of Whanganui living in cars, garages, camping grounds, on the streets or forced to lived with friends and family in severely overcrowded houses," he said.

"We are a better country than this."

The Green Party's Marama Davidson says the statistics are "shameful" and the government must overhaul its approach to homelessness.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett's office responded by issuing a list of actions taken by the government which included:

* $41 million funding for 3000 emergency housing places

* Non-recoverable special needs grants for those who need urgent help

* A $500,000 short term boost for emergency housing last year

* $2m for additional emergency housing places in Auckland

"We are tweaking the way people are prioritised on the housing register to make sure that the different types of homelessness or insecure housing are appropriately escalated," the minister's office said.

"The current system doesn't distinguish properly between people in cars, sleeping rough or living in garages."

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