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Speed dating for housing proves a success

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Homeless Action teams completed almost six months of work in a week, as part of their response to the COVID-19 lockdown.  

Working with a vulnerable group - the chronically houseless, rough sleepers and car sleepers - required a small network of East Coast agencies to quickly find housing for 46 homeless people with a range of needs.

The response to coordinate emergency accommodation for homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a collaborative effort by Housing First, the Ministry for Social Development and local councils.  

Homeless Action team member Wilma Hawkins’ usual role is with the Ministry of Social Development, but her role over the past four weeks is considered part of the Hawke’s Bay region’s Civil Defence network.

“The non-government agencies we work with have good relationships with government anyway, so the solutions came together quickly once we got all the partners talking. What we’ve been able to achieve over such a short time is amazing,” says Mrs Hawkins.

Housing First Hawke’s Bay Manager Kelly Richards speaks of the reward she gets from helping people to stay safe. 

“The clients we’re working with have a range of personal and mental health issues, but they are well cared for across a number of agencies by support staff, security, Police checks, health checks, clothing and food supplies. 

“The people we’re helping are so appreciative of a warm, dry room and even a television. For some people, simple extra services such as wi-fi and a telephone are such a luxury.” 

Richards described the process of matching accommodation options with clients as being ‘like speed dating for housing’. 

“We’ve found accommodation for these guys, girls and couples in the ridiculously short space of a week. In terms of volume, this level of administration and support is what our agencies would normally do over a six-month period,” she adds. 

“The older ones are looking after the younger ones. They’re mostly respecting the pandemic guidelines and keeping in their bubbles.” 

Julie Oliver-Bell is a Clinical Team Leader at HB District Health Board. Her role has been to help coordinate the connections between non-government agencies and the services provided by the DHB. She also acknowledges the amazing work that has taken place during the COVID-19 response.  

“Working across groups such as Whatever It Takes, Emerge, MASH, CentreCare, MedRun Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga and Kahungunu Exec in Wairoa, we have developed even stronger relationships, focused on getting people housed quickly. Even when we’ve had some really at-risk people, our contacts have been able to open up doors,” says Mrs Oliver-Bell. 

For urgent welfare support, call 0800 HBAYCD (0800 422 923)
For more information on COVID-19, visit www.covid19.govt.nz
#StayHomeNZ

18 April 2020

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