A joint project between Christchurch City Council and Christchurch Methodist Mission is helping to make a significant difference in the lives of some of the city's homeless youth and families, says Chair of the Housing Taskforce Glenn Livingstone.
The Housing Options for the Homeless Project, which was set up in July this year, has so far helped nine young people and two families off the streets and into private rental accommodation.
The Council set aside a total of $130,000 from its Social Housing Fund for the project. The money, which is not drawn from rates, is being used to help remove barriers to housing faced by homeless people, including bridging the gap between the affordable rent that tenants pay and the market rent charged by landlords.
"Some of the people involved in the project have been struggling on the streets for years," says Councillor Livingstone.
"Because of this, moving into a permanent home is literally a life-changing event for them, opening up new opportunities for the future.
"Ordinarily, without a previous address, credit rating, tenancy history or enough income to pay for bond or rent in advance, rental housing is simply not an option for people who are homeless. From a landlord's point of view, there's just too much risk there.
"But with the help of the project and the significant support provided by Youth and Cultural Development, the Methodist Mission has been able to help a number of young people and families to overcome these barriers and get a foothold in warm, secure and affordable rental housing."
Jill Hawkey, Executive Director of Christchurch Methodist Mission, says, "This joint initiative shows what's possible when organisations work together and are prepared to take risks to help others in the community.
"Youth and Cultural Development has strong relationships with the young people, and with the funding provided by the Council, we've been able to lease houses that meet their particular needs.
"The tenants have taken a real pride in their new homes, and they are now in a position to address other issues in their lives, which is very encouraging – both for them and for us," says Ms Hawkey.
In December last year, the Council resolved to work with the NZ Coalition to End Homelessness, other city councils, central government and health providers to work towards addressing the growing problem of homelessness in Christchurch.
The Council also partnered with the Christchurch City Mission and the Government last year to help fund the Family Emergency Accommodation Project.
The former City Mission building at 271 Hereford Street is currently being renovated to provide one three-bedroom unit and two two-bedroom units for vulnerable families transitioning from temporary to more permanent homes.