Leaving covid behind should not mean leaving the homeless out in the cold again, advocates say.

Director and founder of the Male Room Philip Chapman said while the lockdown response had been excellent, he worried the support would dry up after the crisis passed.

Published in Stuff

“There’s no two ways about it, they’ve done a great job, I’m not knocking it. It’s more, what will we do next?”

He said there were now only “about three or four” people still on the streets in Nelson, with everyone else in some kind of emergency housing. By April 17, 40 people had been housed.

“Money’s getting thrown at everything at the moment. Each week there’s money going out for the homeless, hundreds on motel rooms, when there wasn’t a dollar before. It’s not sustainable,” Chapman said.

He said other measures, like the caravans set up in Neale Park, had only ever been temporary and would not last after the lockdown.

“A crisis sort of motivates people. There’s a lot that people can do if they put their minds to it … but will these big players still stay involved after this?”

Chapman has been working towards providing a day-time services hub for the homeless on the Male Room property, where people could access services like laundry, showers, and computers for some time, and said he was working with the Nelson City Council on the project.

Community services chair Matt Lawrey said the project was one that the council had been “working towards” for some time, and “now that we’re out of level four lockdown, it’s a project that we’re putting energy into”.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said the focus of New Zealand’s coronavirus response had at all levels reflected a community-mindedness that she wanted to continue.

“Some of the issues that have been front of mind, it’s been about looking after people. We’ve had to really think about the vulnerable people in our community, we’ve had to think about the homeless … these aren’t new issues.

“Now is our chance to make a meaningful change. Now is not the time to turn our back on them and say ‘let’s go back to how it was’.”

She said community support was something that would only become more important with time, with potentially more people requiring help as time went on.

“It’s going to require a whole of community, whole of government response.”

By Skara Bohny
Published in Stuff
30 April 2020