VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai is the national advocacy agency for care-experienced children and young people. We dream of an Aotearoa where all tamariki and rangatahi live with love and mana. We’re all responsible for making this a reality!
VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai welcomes the Waitangi Tribunal report into homelessness, Kāinga Kore. This report is an important step in recognizing the injustice and harm of homelessness within Aotearoa.
VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai is concerned about the lack of housing support for rangatahi transitioning from State Care highlighted in Kāinga Kore. Urgent action is needed to ensure the safety of rangatahi experiencing homelessness in Aotearoa.
Homelessness is traumatic for young people, with potentially lifelong impacts on their mental, physical, and emotional well-being. According to data by STATS NZ, almost 50% of all those experiencing homelessness in Aotearoa are tamariki and rangatahi. Growing up in New Zealand also found in their recent survey that 1 in 14 children surveyed experienced some form of homelessness between the ages of 8 and 12 years, and a report by Youth19 found that 29% of high school students surveyed were experiencing some form of homelessness.
“Youth Homelessness is at crisis point,” says Tupua Urlich, a staunch advocate for reform within the state system and the National Care Experienced Lead for VOYCE-Whakarongo Mai. He believes the reality of youth homelessness must be spelt out. This is about young people and children literally without a safe place to call home. The State has obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) to ensure that children and young people have access to safe and stable housing. “Housing is a basic human right; it should horrify and shock us that in Aotearoa we have young people living on our streets, and that as a community we are currently unable to house some of our most vulnerable young people,” says Tupua. “We’re not talking about a warzone here! We’re talking about a country that can’t provide homes for their young people. This is a societal failure and is an indictment on us as a country.”
A report released by Oranga Tamariki recently highlighted that 1 in 10 young people transitioning from care or from a youth justice residence were either couch surfing, sleeping rough, in emergency accommodation, or lacked safe and stable accommodation. This demonstrates that for many young people in the State Care system, the State is failing in its parental duty to meet this most basic human right.
VOYCE-Whakarongo Mai is confident that Youth Homelessness in Aotearoa can be ended. When the Government, community, and those with lived experience create solutions together, change is possible. Through our work advocating alongside care-experienced young people, we have seen the difference safe, stable housing makes in their lives. We acknowledge the mahi of the collective members of Manaaki Rangatahi who are working nationally to build solutions for our young people experiencing homelessness. VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai want to see more resources going into existing youth housing services to ensure that young people have the support they need, especially when they are transitioning from State Care.
VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai is calling on the Government to develop a strategy to prevent and end youth homelessness as a matter of urgency. The Government must work alongside sector colleagues and people who have experienced homelessness to understand the causes of youth homelessness and how to end it. This strategy must include legislation to ensure that no young person can be exited from State Care without stability and support.
“We’ve lost track of our values,” reflects Tupua. “When a young person can leave the care of the state without a home, without love and support, that says something about us as a country. It’s not the young person’s fault they are without a home; we need to be clear on that. It’s the other way around. We have failed them, and we continue to fail them. The good news is we can change this. When people care, we have seen how effective our democracy can be. As a country we have faced several crises over the last few years. In the face of all we’ve been through together we’ve seen what we can achieve when we work together. When people care enough, we can move and make things happen for people. We can do this again. We can end youth homelessness, but we need to act urgently. We do not have time to wait!”
The Kāinga Kore report highlights the significant gaps in housing support for rangatahi, especially for those exiting State care. But change is possible.