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Plight of the homeless revealed to MPs

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/09/2016

Homeless sleep under the doorway of New Zealand Bank in Auckland. © Rex Images Homeless sleep under the doorway of New Zealand Bank in Auckland. The inquiry into homelessness that's being run by opposition parties has heard compelling evidence about the extent of the problem.

At a hearing in parliament on Monday sociologist Kay Saville-Smith said she had worked on homelessness for 30 years.

"Never have I seen a situation like this," she told MPs.

"Older people, typically well-housed, are being tipped into homelessness."

Ms Saville-Smith said the community housing sector was in disarray, vulnerable people were being pushed aside and the building industry wasn't delivering affordable homes.

UNICEF representatives brought with them a young women with five children, who asked not to be identified.

"At times, WINZ can be really horrible," she said.

"I couldn't even get on a waiting list... but Women's Refuge has been amazing."

She said her children had been ill because of living in sub-standard housing and spoke of the the difficulties she had encountered with private sector landlords.

"When the shower stopped working they said it was my fault... you are at the mercy of other people."

UNICEF's Prudence Stone says all the government agencies had failed to help the woman - the only ones which had responded were NGOs.

Stephanie McIntyre, the director of Wellington's Downtown Community Ministry, told the inquiry there was "unspeakable hardship" in the city.

"It is increasing sharply," she said.

"The number of people living rough in Wellington has doubled in the last five years."

Ms McIntyre said the most pressing problem was the lack of affordable rental housing.

Hearings have been held around the country over the last month and Monday's was the last before MPs put the evidence together and write a report.

Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party decided to hold their own inquiry after National MPs on a parliamentary committee voted against holding one.

The government says it's aware of the issues and is dealing with them.

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