Youth advocacy services call for transitional housing in Horowhenua

Advocates are calling for transitional housing for young people in Horowhenua, who are slipping through the cracks and couch-surfing in an effort to keep a roof over their heads.
Many young people are facing the prospect of having nowhere to go, and are spending more and more time at learning institutes as they search for a place to sleep.

Horowhenua Learning Centre chief executive officer Patrick Rennell said it was difficult for young people to achieve in education or employment when they did not have a home.

They desperately need a base in the region, a place where you can spend at least 12 months to just re-set. Somewhere safe and warm, with great support.

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The Horowhenua Learning Centre offers programmes to students from 15 years old.

One young man was engaged in education, but was forced to couch-surf for almost a year, and as a result had to leave his course, and start again. It was impossible for him to engage and achieve without a stable home.

Another young woman left home because it was an uncomfortable environment.

She was under 18 years old and couldnt sign a lease, so was forced to stay with a friend. This was temporary, and she was forced to move onto her boyfriend's home, before yet another friend.

Eventually she returned home and the cycle began again.

Rennell said the centre's main goal was to get students into employment, but it was hard to commit to a job when you didnt know where you would be sleeping each night.

We see more and more numbers of people that dont have a solid base.

Horowhenua needed a hostel, he said, with at least 15 beds to keep up with the amount of young people struggling. The rooms would need to be self-contained, and there needed to be communal living spaces.

A supervisor would live in the facility, overseeing the young people and their routines.

They can have a little bit of independence, but someone [will be there] for structure and support when needed.

He said it would take organisations pulling together to make this a reality, including the Government, which could do the build, or a developer willing to get involved and lease it out.

If we had the political will to do it, it could be done.

Horowhenua Learning Centre had been accessing the Hardship Learning Fund for money to help students due to the circumstances of the pandemic.

Rennell said people had been coming to it in need of food vouchers, mattresses, blankets and help with their power bills. It would spend $17,000 providing such items.

It was also a community trust and funded pastoral care to help students achieve.

It feels like a Band-Aid when they have nowhere to go.

Horowhenua District councillor Piri-Hira Tukapua has been advocating for housing for youth for more than a year.

The council ran a housing forum in March 2019, where the need was identified.

She said there was a developer who had available land and would provide the building, however, it could not be done alone and other agencies needed to contribute.

Cr Tukapua said the population of young people in the district was growing, and it would make sense to have a hostel that was affordable and accessible.

There is a need, and its only going to grow.

Life to the Max manager Samantha Coromandel said these situations mostly came about due to a breakdown in relationships with the young persons family.

Life to the Max provided youth social services, mentoring and counselling, and access to youth and health support for people aged 10 to 19.

Coromandel said it had about 70 people on youth payments, aged 16 and 17, who couldnt live with their parents or guardian and werent supported by anyone else.

You couldn't sign a lease without a signature from a parent or guardian before the age of 18, so there was a group that had nowhere to go.

If you cant sign a lease, finding accommodation is impossible, she said.

The only option was to find a place to board, but the housing market was competitive and expensive.

Emergency housing was also an option, but Coromandel said that was a last resort.

Life to the Max worked closely with motel owners and young people to make sure they didnt get into trouble.

They need a home that is a home, Coromandel said. A place they can stay till they need to fly, and move out.


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