The James Liston Hostel, the only emergency housing provider in Auckland’s city centre, will be getting a $4 million refurbishment that will start in March and will be completed by the end of the year.
Auckland Council put $2million towards the project in recognition of the hostel’s importance in addressing rough sleeping and homelessness in the city.
The hostel’s management is trying to raise additional funds to cover the total cost.
James Liston Hostel board chairperson Dame Diane Robertson expressed appreciation for the funding that will allow them to help homeless people and rough sleepers transition to permanent housing.
“At this point in time, the hostel’s ability to sustain positive outcomes for our clients is severely impacted by the current condition and capacity of our accommodation. So this investment is going to help us directly address these issues. More beds, better conditions and a more therapeutic setting will help us move people more quickly through our housing-first model, and with better results,” said Dame Diane.
Hostel manager Charlotte Ama said the project will enable an update of the facility as well as an increase of its capacity by an additional seven beds, bringing the total to 50 beds.
“[Our] facility is a little bit outdated. A long overdue refurbishment is coming and we are really looking forward to that so that things are more in line with [the] Health and Safety [Act]. It will ensure the safety of staff and the safety of the people who use the service,” she said.
Ms Ama expressed concern that more and more young people are seeking their services.
“The trend on the youth is becoming more prevalent. I guess, it’s been there all the time but when someone [who is] 18 years old accesses this place, it’s a little bit crazy. At 18, you should be at home or in school or working, not in a homeless shelter,” she said, adding they have linked young people with youth services.
Ms Ama said they are also seeing an increase in older people using their services.
“There is a group between the ages of 50 and 70 that are coming in off the street,” she said.
These people are usually those who have come from private rentals who suddenly could not afford the rent. She said such people were unaware that they are entitled to social housing.
Another trend she identified is an increase in rough sleepers who come from outside Auckland.
One of the reasons they come to Auckland is it’s a 24 hour city, she suggested.
“You can sleep on a bench and no one will pick on you. They’ll think you’re homeless and they’ll leave you alone. You can sleep somewhere without feeling unsafe. And there’s always someone passing you and giv[ing] you something to eat,” she said.
Ms Ama said clients are allowed to stay in the facility for a period of 12 weeks. During this time, they put the clients in touch with social services to arrange a more permanent living arrangement.
She said they have tied up with Housing First Auckland to provide wraparound services to their clients. According to its website, James Liston Hostel was started as a project by the laity of four separate churches and supported by the Lions club.