Sensing the future to create fresh possibilities

The Wise Group’s response to ending homelessness is The People’s Project – a unique collaborative initiative that operates in Hamilton and Tauranga using the evidenced-based Housing First approach.

While the Hamilton service has been operating since 2014 and has supported more than 700 housing outcomes, the Tauranga team only recently celebrated its first-year anniversary; it was launched in June 2018 with a street-front office in the heart of the CBD.

Wise Group joint chief executive Julie Nelson said standing up to the challenge of ending homelessness in one of the toughest housing markets in New Zealand requires tenacity and a “never give up” spirit.

“Housing First is at the same time incredibly rewarding and incredibly intensive work. And it’s a testament to our Tauranga team that in the past 12-months, 39 people who were chronically homeless on the streets of Tauranga have now been supported into homes of their own.” Julie said.

Tauranga service manager Simone Cuers agreed, and added that while there was a lot more work to be done, the results were pleasing.

Housing highs and lows

The most challenging aspects of the work was Tauranga’s housing market.

“Finding suitable, affordable 1- and 2-bedroom properties, either on the private rental market or from community or public housing providers is an ongoing challenge. It is a very tough situation because there is very high demand for public housing in Tauranga. However, we have achieved some success in the private rental market, which has been heartening and we are very thankful to the landlords and rental agencies that are choosing to work with us. We do let clients know that it can take some time to find a home, but we exhaust every avenue, and we never give up,” Simone said.

“We could house all the people we are working with today, if we had the right housing,” she added.

Moving people into their new homes was the highlight of the team’s work. Simone said giving a person the key to their home was often an emotional event.

“People say things like, ‘I can chill out and just be’, ‘I didn’t think I’d enjoy it so much’ (being housed), ‘I’m looking forward to stability in my life’ and ‘I can rest now’.”

Tenacity, passion and commitment

Simone said it was important to acknowledge that The People’s Project’s first-year results were testament to all the organisations in Tauranga who work with vulnerable people.

“Homelessness is a really complex issue, and from the outset we said no one can solve it working alone.

“These first-year results couldn’t have been achieved without the strong partnerships we have working alongside Tauranga City Council, Ministry for Social Development, The Ministry for Housing and Urban Development, Housing New Zealand, Accessible Properties Limited, Ngati Ranginui Iwi, Downtown Tauranga,  the DHB’s community mental health and drug and alcohol services, community meal providers Street Kai, Kai Aroha, Under the Stars, Tauranga Moana Men’s Night Shelter, Awhina House, Huria Marae, Tauranga Community Housing Trust, Te Tuinga Whanau, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, St Peters House, Tauranga Foodbank, Good Neighbour, Western Bay Primary Health Organisation and First National Real Estate.”

A Group-wide approach to ending homelessness

The Wise Group is committed to ending homelessness so that it is rare, brief and non-recurring. Julie said the Group was earning a reputation for delivering a range of Housing First interventions for people with differing housing and support needs – from prevention through to chronic homelessness.

In addition to The People’s Project in Hamilton and Tauranga, the Group’s community housing provider LinkPeople is a member of the Housing First Auckland Collective, working with chronically homeless people in South Auckland.

Wise Management Services also provides backbone business support and project management to The People’s Project, LinkPeople and the Housing First Auckland Collective.

To find out more about The People’s Project visit the website

Published on: 10 July 2019