When it’s other people’s money

Housing the homeless in motels is costing $millions:

New figures show the multi-million dollars being netted by top-earning emergency motels with the Government expecting this to continue for at least the next few years, National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“Emergency Housing should be about getting people back on their feet and into stable housing as soon as possible. Instead, these figures show that it’s become a get-rich-quick scheme for motel owners.” . . 

“In total more than half a billion dollars has been spent on housing people in emergency accommodation since Labour came to office,’ Ms Willis says.

“The Government needs to create a plan to end long-stay emergency housing. A National Government would work with community organisations to create more stable, secure homes, instead of continually padding the bank balances of motel owners.

“But there’s no end in sight as the Government acknowledges it expects the number of emergency housing grants to peak at 170,000 for each of the next two years. That’s a dramatic increase compared to 2017, when that number was 35,994.

“What’s worse is that the Government can’t confirm the safety of people living in emergency housing as it’s not monitoring the conditions in these motels.

“It isn’t getting value for the huge cheques it’s writing, with motel owners charging more than $440 a night for rooms that don’t even have to meet quality standards. People are living like this for longer and longer, with the average stay now more than three months.

“Labour came to office saying $90,000 a day was too much to be spending on motels, but it’s now more than ten times that with no end in sight.

“This is a shocking policy failure with frightening consequences for the thousands of children who are now being raised in motels.

“Moteliers aren’t social workers and the stories we are hearing about the dangerous conditions in emergency motels are just heart breaking. The Government must achieve more with the extraordinary amounts of money it is spending. 

“The millions being spent on emergency housing would be better placed in the hands of community housing organisations who can provide wrap around support to help people get back on their feet and into stable accommodation.

“The Government needs to stop putting emergency housing in the ‘too hard basket’ and end the current arrangement as soon as possible.”

This is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on what amounts to band-aids – covering the homeless sore while the bleeding housing shortage continues.

On top of the money spent on accommodation, is the unknown cost of damage:

Unknown sums of money are being handed over to moteliers to cover damages caused by emergency housing clients – officials aren’t keeping track of what’s being spent and can’t put a total figure on it.

That’s “not ideal”, admits Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni, who wants a system that can better monitor those costs and the damage being caused.

Not ideal?

This is the 21st century, we’re not still using parchment to record information and carrier pigeons to deliver it. It wouldn’t be hard to develop and use a system that keeps account of these costs.

That no-one has been and all the Minister in charge can say is that it’s less than ideal is an appalling reflection on the government’s approach to other people’s money.

It’s a lack of accountability and respect shared by too many recipients of it, a point Lindsay Mitchel makes:

. .  But some (often blameless beneficiaries) who live in or near emergency housing feel very unsafe. The protestors doubtless sleep all day and come out at night to wreak havoc; do drugs, do violence and do damage. These aren’t working people who have to get a decent night’s sleep.

They are anti-social miscreants who arc between apathy and aggression and wear their alienation as a badge of honour.

Instead of a system that refuses to tolerate their destructiveness, we get a system which rewards them with no-strings-attached cash and plenty of excuses for their defection from the rest of society.

Nobody has explained to them that the social security system was born out of shared values, shared compassion for genuine need, and shared commitment to fund it.

Certainly Sepuloni hasn’t bothered. And it is highly unlikely that the new compulsory history curriculum will cover what Mickey Savage envisaged when he created it over eighty years ago.

Green associate housing Minister Marama Davidson is appalled. The situation is unacceptable she says. Yet this is a leading proponent of an anything-goes benefit regime. Is she really surprised at what such a mushy modus operandi results in?

A much harder line must be taken with offenders. They will be breaking multiple laws and for the sake of those in closest proximity – those in genuine, unavoidable need – the very least that should happen is a threat to immediately end their benefit entitlement. Whatever ensues, we have a police force to deal with.

Someone needs to get – and someone needs to give – the correct message: you can’t keep biting the hand that feeds you.

Don’t hold your breath for that someone to be the person in charge though.

Some people require permanent assistance through circumstances beyond their control such as ill health or disability.

Others need temporary help and then are able to find work and support themselves.

Then there’s the people who use and abuse the system and keep doing it with no sanctions.

It would be bad enough if their anti-social lives were self-funded. When it’s other people’s money, and borrowed money at that, their disregard for other people, their properties and the law makes it far worse.

It’s not just the money, making other people’s lives a misery compounds the wrong-doing.

If they aren’t willing to fulfill their part of the social contract that comes with receiving a benefit, they must face appropriate consequences.

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