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When and why did The People’s Project get started?
The People’s Project was first established in Hamilton in September 2014, because so many people were concerned about the increasing numbers of people who were living on the streets or sleeping rough. It was recognised that a community-wide response was required, and that no single organisation working alone had the ability to solve this challenging problem. The establishment of The People’s Project was supported by Hamilton City Council under its Safe City strategy.
How big was the homeless problem in Hamilton at that time?
When The People’s Project started, nobody knew for sure exactly how many people were homeless, because there are different types of homelessness. Estimates indicated there were around 80 people living on the streets or sleeping rough. Some had been homeless on the streets of Hamilton for many years – the person with the longest history had spent 25 winters sleeping rough.
Who is involved in the project?
The People's Project is a multi-agency collaborative. Eleven key organisations are involved in The People's Project Hamilton: Hamilton City Council, New Zealand Police, Ministry of Social Development, Child, Youth and Family, Housing New Zealand, Department of Corrections, Waikato District Health Board, Midlands Health, Hamilton Central Business Association, Te Puni Kōkiri and the Wise Group.
What services are provided?
Our first focus is on housing. We have adopted the Housing First model which places the priority on finding a person a home first, and then addressing the issues or reasons why they have become homeless. The People's Project is the only organisation to have adapted the international Housing First model for the unique New Zealand context.
The People’s Project office is NOT a drop-in centre for homeless people. It is a central hub where the many different agencies work together with the homeless to connect and reconnect them with accommodation, income, budgeting, health, employment and tenancy support - and any of the community services they may need to help them live independently.
It's important that The People’s Project is centrally located and within easy distance of those people who need its support. In Hamilton we are located at 24 Garden Place in the CBD.
What is the Housing First model?
Successful in Canada and USA, Europe and the United Kingdom, the Housing First model recognises that it is easier for people to address the issues that led to their homelessness, such as mental health issues and addiction, once they are housed. The priority is to quickly move people into appropriate housing and then immediately provide wrap-around services to address the issues that led to their homelessness. Permanent, secure, appropriate, safe housing is recognised as a basic human right.
What are wrap-around services?
Many homeless people have complex needs. This can include physical and mental health issues and addictions. Wrap-around services are all the services required to support a person to return to independent living, after they have found a home, including returning to work.
How much does it cost to end homelessness?
Researchers at Otago University have estimated the approximate cost of social services for a homeless person in New Zealand is $65,000 per year. This is how much it costs for someone to cycle in and out of the courts, accident and emergency and other services. Internationally, housing people and providing them with appropriate wrap-around services has shown to have saved as much as half the cost of caring for them on the streets. Using 2006 census data, Otago University also calculated that 34,000 New Zealanders, or one in every 120 people, were lacking habitable, private and secure housing.
In New Zealand we don’t know what the exact cost of ending homelessness will be because there are many types of homelessness. Global research shows that it is significantly cheaper to provide appropriate, secure housing and in-home support than to continue providing the same person with sporadic ongoing emergency and institutional assistance.