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Mission charts pathways out of homelessness

In conjunction with unveiling its new name, Lifewise, Methodist Mission Northern, last month launched a new model for delivering social services at its city shelter based on collaboration with other service providers.

Housing minister Maryan Street supports LIFEWISE’s new initiative to help homeless people into long-term accommodation.

The new service has been developed for the homeless and marginalized people who use Lifewise’s Airedale Community Centre (now known as the Lifewise Centre). It aims to help them find long-term housing and acquire the life skills and the means they require to integrate into the wider community.

Lifewise community services general manager John McCarthy says the organisation reviewed all the services it provides its homeless clients before developing the new model. It is based on current best practice but goes further and addresses the issues underlying homelessness.

"We face two challenges," John says. "One is to find housing for the homeless people who use the Centre and the other is to keep them there. Life in the suburbs can be lonely, especially if you do not have the basic skills to support yourself. If people feel isolated they will return to the streets and the cycle continues."

The first phase of the initiative is called ‘Pathways out of Homelessness’. To implement it Lifewise has formed partnerships with government and non-government groups that provide support for people with substance abuse and mental health issues.

These are Community Alcohol & Drugs Services, Te Atea Marino, the Taylor Centre, and Odyssey House. They have committed to provide skilled consultants to assist homeless clients on site at the centre.

John says bringing a range of support services to homeless people, rather than relying on them to access those services themselves, will help them develop the life skills and capabilities to move on with their lives.

The Mission has also recruited support staff with experience in mental health and social services who will determine people’s needs, set goals, and address the issues that prevent them from maintaining housing and integrating into the community.

"It has always been the Mission’s priority to break the cycles of dependency. Our experience working with homeless people, children, families and older people has shown us that simply meeting their immediate needs can perpetuate dependency rather than providing a sustainable solution.

"Our new approach addresses many of the key concerns highlighted in Auckland City Council’s research on homelessness, including the need for a more co-ordinated and systematic approach to the issue.

"The enthusiasm with which both government bodies and not-for-profit support agencies have responded to the Pathways Programme, and our ability to secure partner organisations, illustrates how significant this development is in establishing a robust framework and philosophy around homelessness," John says.

The Lifewise Centre will remain Auckland’s leading provider of primary services for homeless people and it will continue to provide daily meals, health checks, clothing, and washroom facilities.