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Recent research has confirmed the prevalence of homelessness amongst students and the wider population.
Statistical analysis undertaken by Dr Kate Amore of the University of Otago (Wellington) has revealed that homelessness has grown by 15 per cent across the country between the 2006 and 2013 censuses.
The general increase is largely due to increasing living costs in combination with non-responsive incomes.
Dr Amore says that “in 2013, more than half (52 per cent) of homeless adults were working, studying, or both, up from 49 per cent in 2006.”
Statistics New Zealand considers homelessness as a state of having no permanent shelter or safe haven, and this definition excludes severely inadequate living situations.
Student homelessness is not an unknown issue, and has affected many different demographics, however the housing market’s prohibitory state against students is only just being formally recognised.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) are urging for an expanded definition of homelessness, as the one currently held by Statistics New Zealand “has exclusions that punish students unfairly,” while they suffer poor housing quality and living situations.
In agreement, Dr Amore and NZUSA would prefer a more inclusive approach to reduce levels of homelessness, as affected people are slipping through the cracks of a failing welfare system and are denied the opportunity to increase their quality of life.
The employment opportunities afforded to university graduates tend to allow a greater potential to escape homelessness, however the wider, and growing, trend will not be resolved without recognition of the structural barriers that prohibit access to safe and affordable accommodation for a large number of New Zealanders.
Dr Amore says that people shouldn’t have to live on the streets for the government to show concern and take substantive action.
“Students are living in impossible situations,” NZUSA President Linsey Higgins echoes.
Despite the Dr Amore’s analysis revealing of the scale of homelessness amongst students, there are some strategies already in place to tackle this growing issue.
Of particular note is Te Mahana in Wellington which is endorsed by many government agencies and community organisations. They have the broad goal of “increasing housing affordability, reducing poverty, and increasing household incomes” by incorporating culturally-specific steps to combat homelessness.
If you are unable to sustain a healthy living situation you may be eligible for accommodation supplements through Studylink and/or Work and Income New Zealand.