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Partnering with City Safe to support the city’s most vulnerable

27 July 2020

Hamilton City Council has finished deliberations on the 2020 review of its Annual Plan, and it was great see that it has approved additional funding to continue the city safe suburban response for another year. City Safe is one of our key partners in Hamilton. We work closely and see first-hand how their team is making a substantial difference in communities throughout the city every day. The People’s Project made the following submission to the Annual Plan in support of this additional funding for the City Safe response, and we are so pleased to see elected members listening to the voice of the community.

Submission to Hamilton City Council draft Annual Plan deliberations 2020

This submission is from The People’s Project in support of the proposal to: add $237,000 for the continuation of the City Safe suburban response team.  The People’s Project’s area of work is: ending homelessness in Hamilton so that it is rare, brief and non-recurring.

The People’s Project considers City Safe a vital part of a multi-agency collaboration to make homelessness in Hamilton a rare or brief occurrence, and non-recurring for people.

City Safe supports The People’s Project to reach and connect with one of the city’s vulnerable populations; those who are rough sleeping in both the central business district, and in the parks, reserves and suburbs of Hamilton.

This is a brief summary of some of the highlights of our partnership from the past six years. Ours has been a highly successful collaboration which we consider vital in the ongoing battle against homelessness across our city. City Safe’s effectiveness in working in partnership has been proven in a significant reduction of rough sleepers in the CBD, an increase in the perception of safety among constituents and the reduction of crime in our centre.

Enabling City Safe to operate more widely throughout the city and in our suburbs will further enhance this work, and support our communities to provide assistance to vulnerable people earlier, therefore preventing a range of social challenges from becoming entrenched in our city.

The People’s Project was established in 2014 as part of the Hamilton Central City Safety Plan 2014 – 2017. City Safe were considered an integral part of the original plan, which aimed to improve people’s perceptions of safety in the CBD. Since 2014, City Safe has formed part of the multi-agency Governance Group that guides the strategic direction of The People’s Project. They are, therefore, integral to our success.

Since 2014, there has been a steady recorded improvement in both the day-time and night-time perceptions of safety in Hamilton as well as a recorded reduction in central city crime. This is partly because there are significantly fewer rough sleepers in central Hamilton. City Safe has been a vital part of this achievement.

From the outset, City Safe has often been one of the first responders in addressing rough sleeping homelessness in Hamilton. Because they are out in the community, they are often first to locate people sleeping rough. Working in close collaboration with our own outreach teams, City Safe teams leverage off the rapport they have built with people to support them to connect with our service for help.

Their officers skillfully and respectfully directing people to the urgent support they need, has often meant escorting people to our door or phoning in a location so our outreach teams can respond. Building this rapport with people is vital to people accepting help.

City Safe’s reputation for respectfully approaching and supporting people has been built up over many years and is integral to the success achieved in outreach. Together, with their help, we have had more than 2,500 people register for help to find housing and support in Hamilton since 2014, and we have provided 850 formerly homeless households (involving more than 1,000 men, women, and children) with the dignity of a home.  People have been connected with the supports they’ve needed to thrive, and to re-join our community.

Since opening, outreach has been a vital part of our day-to-day operations. We have established a regular weekly routine of travelling out with City Safe team members to connect with people rough sleeping around the city in the suburbs and parks and reserves. Our teams head out in the early morning at 6am to connect with people who may move on before dawn.

City Safe is a key partner in addressing challenging street behaviours, such as begging. They partnered with The People’s Project, Hamilton City Council, Police and Hamilton Central Business Association in designing and implementing the “Your Help May Harm” campaign aimed at addressing this behaviour.  Importantly, those begging were known to both City Safe and The People’s Project. Therefore, we were able to arrive at a well-informed strategy, based on a deep understanding of those involved.

Both rough sleeping and begging behaviour occur across the city. Both City Safe and The People’s Project have been involved in resolving situations in Dinsdale and Five Cross Roads. Small numbers of people begging have also been reported in Flagstaff, Hamilton East, Chartwell and Rototuna shopping centres and other places where there are dairies and clusters of shops throughout the city.

Nuisance behaviour like begging is not a crime. People cannot report it to police and expect that action will be taken. Nuisance behaviour such as aggressive begging is covered in the Hamilton City Council’s Safety in Public Places Bylaw, therefore it is reasonable to expect that if this behaviour is being experienced in any location in the Hamilton community, members of the community can call on Council (through City Safe) to enforce the bylaw. Funding to ensure the continuation of the City Safe suburban response team will ensure that this can happen.

In June 2019, City Safe were a pivotal part of the inaugural Hamilton By-Name Count of those rough sleeping, called Connections Week. Volunteers from City Safe, The People’s Project, Wise Group and Te Runanga met at 5am for three mornings, to survey the streets, parks, bridges, and river paths across Hamilton city. Information from Connections Week helped us better understand the size and nature of unsheltered homelessness in Hamilton. The People’s Project will be holding Connection’s Week again this year. City Safe will again be a leading partner in this vital survey.

City Safe supported our efforts during the recent COVID-19 pandemic Alert Level 4 Lockdown. In the days leading up to the lockdown, The People’s Project worked with City Safe, Civil Defence and Police to locate people rough sleeping, so they could be supported into emergency accommodation. This was important so they too could self-isolate from the virus in safety. City Safe assisted us to locate people and co-ordinate their transition to temporary shelter.

In summary, City Safe have been a vital part of our journey, and the return-on-investment from City Safe’s service is evidenced in the results of city safety surveys over the past five years.  If we look at the baseline data, the positive findings can be directly attributed to Council’s investment in City Safe and the partnership and collaboration with Māori wardens, community, business and government and non-government agencies in working together.

Expanding City Safe to outlying suburbs will continue to make the gains we know and see possible.

Sadly, the drivers of homelessness are still prevalent in our society.  Every leader and every agency must actively play their part in the realisation of a fair and just society for all.  Let’s be the first city to end homeless in Aotearoa so that it becomes rare, brief and non-recurring.