Homeless will be left out in the cold during pandemic


Agencies working with the homeless community are worried that people living on the street will be left behind if there is a community outbreak of Covid-19.

Homeless advocacy group Gimme Shelter has estimated 40,000 or more New Zealanders are currently defined as homeless,

About 5000 sleeping rough and the rest live in inadequate, temporary, or overcrowded housing.

“We will have people who are extremely ill, whose place of shelter will be St Peter’s, or the doorways that they sleep in,” says the Archdeacon of St Peter’s Anglican Church on Willis Street in Wellington: Stephen King.

“We have that discussion about people hunkering down and isolating themselves until the illness passes.”

For some people there is nowhere to go and so what happens to them?”

And he adds that even if some accommodation was made available for self-isolation, continuing to care for people in that situation is a problem.

He said it will not come from hospitals, because they will be at capacity.

An Auckland City Mission spokeswoman said making sure the homeless were cared for during the pandemic was becoming a challenge.

Along with an increase in demand for food parcels, there was concern over the drop off in volunteer staffing recently.

She said if people did see rough sleepers with symptoms, it was important to get in touch with them or Healthline to make sure they could be looked after.

Peter Shimwell Lifewise in Auckland said they are giving their street whānau phones and sim cards to make sure they do not become disconnected.

He said Lifewise is a face-to-face service, so there is concern over how to maintain those connections with people so they are not “left behind and further disconnected”.

Stephanie McIntyre of DCM – another Wellington faith-based group working with rough sleepers – said it is an indictment on New Zealand’s society that people are even in this position.

“We’ve got a very vulnerable group in our population, who are community members and might literally be left out in the cold.”


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News category: New Zealand.

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