Volunteers crucial for Auckland’s first region-wide Point in Time homeless count

12 June 2018

A collaboration of community organisations, people with lived experience of homelessness, emergency housing providers, government, academics and approximately 750 volunteers will be involved in Ira Mata, Ira Tangata: Auckland’s Homeless Count – the first Point in Time, region-wide count of people living without shelter (on the street and in cars) in Auckland, which takes place in September 2018.

The count is being organised by providers in the Housing First Auckland collective and its backbone services team with funding from Auckland Council. The count will take place on Monday, 17 September 2018 from 9.30pm to 12.30am.

Fiona Hamilton, project manager for Housing First Auckland said, as the name suggests, the Point in Time Count will give a snapshot of the extent of unsheltered homelessness across Auckland –  those people sleeping on the street and in cars – at a specific point in time.

Hamilton said a Point in Time count was needed right across Auckland because the extent of unsheltered homelessness was unknown.

“While there has been great work done by the Auckland City Mission in the City Centre since 2004 to find out who is sleeping rough in the CBD, we haven’t attempted to do the same Auckland-wide. We have very good estimates of all forms of homelessness, but we don’t have a good understanding of the size and nature of unsheltered homelessness right across the city.”

She said input from the city’s community agencies alongside hundreds of volunteers will be crucial to implementing the count. 

“We can’t do this on our own or without the support of volunteers to help us cover the vast Auckland region, including Wellsford in the north, Waiuku in the south, Piha in the west and the Hunua Ranges near Miranda in the east. 

“We need approximately 750 volunteers to ensure we can gain an accurate understanding of people living without shelter across the region.”

Ms Hamilton said the findings of the count would be shared widely and used to inform local service delivery, prevention efforts and national policy-making to progress Auckland’s journey towards ending homelessness so that it is rare, brief and non-recurring.  

“To solve an issue, you first need to accurately define it. Auckland’s Homeless Count is an important step towards understanding the size and nature of unsheltered homelessness in Auckland – because we currently do not know with certainty the extent or nature of unsheltered homelessness across Auckland. 

“By having a better understanding, together we can better plan and resource the services required to support more people into housing. The count also allows us to measure the progress of these initiatives towards ending homelessness and informing approaches in the future,” Ms Hamilton said. 

On the night of the count, volunteers will work in groups and speak with people who are living without shelter on the street or in cars. Training will be provided, and volunteers will be supported by a local project team managing logistics.

“The information and data we gather from the count is about much more than just numbers. It’s about also understanding the nature of this kind of homelessness – for example how long people have been homeless, how often have they been homeless, their health and wellbeing needs, whether they have access to an income. Being a volunteer in this count is a way to make a real difference to the lives of people in our communities,” Ms Hamilton said.

Ms Hamilton is clear that community collaboration and partnership is key to designing and delivering the count. 

“We are extremely appreciative of the many organisations and individuals working with us and supporting the count. We’re working closely with local community organisations, people with lived experience of homelessness, emergency housing providers, government, academics and many others. Because we can’t do this on our own.”

Housing First Auckland is also exploring how the count could include people in temporary accommodation – information about people in temporary accommodation would need to be sourced through services, rather than through face-to-face interviews. 

“We encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering to be part of the Count to find out more and register their interest by 31 August 2018.