A youth homelessness advocate says emergency accommodation is not a solution after lockdowns meant teenagers were housed with adults who weren’t necessarily “good for them”.
Carly Laughton is a member of the Youth Housing Team at Lifewise and is part of a collective calling for a youth-specific strategy to solve homelessness.
She says life for a homeless young person is more difficult because they are not old enough to go into a motel, sign a tenancy agreement and are far less likely to be chosen as a flatmate because of their age.
Laughton, who has also experienced homelessness herself, says current solutions for young people are not practical.
Lifewise is trying to build data and show research into what homelessness, particularly in Auckland, looks like.
Laughton says homelessness often stems from a “relationship breakdown” where a young person has run away from a situation that is “really hard”.
Lockdowns brought homeless youth into unsafe environments after they were housed in emergency accommodation with adults, which further traumatised them, she says.
“When I think about what Level 4 lockdown looked like for the rangitahi in Tāmaki and it looked like everybody that was on the streets, rough sleeping had to be housed.
“No one was allowed to be out on the streets and so our rangitahi were placed into emergency accommodation with whānau that weren’t necessarily good for them.
“What we are looking at is rangitahi that are being further traumatised... We have recognised that it’s not a solution,” Laughton says.
She says youth need a supported living environment where they have someone that can be their voice and say, "Hey, we know this has been your experience up to this stage but this is not what you need now – and we are going to walk alongside you to make sure that these things happen.”
Laughton says a strategy is needed to work out a solution for the rangitahi in Aotearoa so they can “let their walls down and really start to deal with the trauma and the hurt”.