Pastor Wiremu Te Taniwha, Livingwaters Church, Photos Paul Mitchell

Auckland City councillors have expressed their frustration with central government’s management of rising numbers of homeless in Auckland.

But according to a local figure at the forefront of providing for the homeless, Waiheke’s problem is probably worse.  

A recent report on Auckland Council’s homelessness work programme to a Parks, Arts Community and Events Committee showed Covid-19 has had significant impacts on the number of homeless in Auckland.

The report said Auckland City Mission described what economists call a “K-shaped recovery” from Covid-19 has pushed some people who were already vulnerable into more severe housing insecurity. 

Covid hindered the delivery of support in ways like emergency housing not being suited for long-term accommodation, the increase in need for support, service providers needing to pivot towards the rapidly changing public health crisis and delays in strategic work, the report said. 

The most comprehensive figures on homelessness in the region remains the Housing First Auckland’s Homeless Count, conducted in 2018. A follow-up count was delayed when Covid hit, and the Housing First collective and other social services’ focus shifted to pandemic-related challenges. The 2018 count found 3674 people living without shelter and in temporary accommodation across the Auckland region. Waiheke had the highest rate of homelessness of all 20 local board jurisdictions, when compared to the total population of the area – and had the fourth highest share of those living without any shelter at all, with 17 people or 5.1 per cent of the 336 people counted.
Wiremu Te Taniwha, pastor of Livingwaters Church, Waiheke’s only emergency housing provider, says if anything those figures undersell a problem that has only got worse in the past five years. “In summer, you can double those numbers quite easily and since then, with Covid, we’ve had a lot of people stuck on the island living in cars and vans.”

 • Paul Mitchell

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