Nobody truly cared about the homeless until National blinked

“The country has been shocked by the recent rise in homelessness,” Labour leader Andrew Little says.

“No New Zealander feels good about children sleeping rough and families living in their cars.”

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett was asked by Labour’s Phil Twyford in the House on Wednesday if she would support the investigation.

However, she said the Government was already doing work on the problem.

“We have a range of initiatives, some which are already implanted, some which we are implementing and some that are still in the negotiating stages – all of which will make a huge difference in the issues of homelessness and emergency housing, and that’s what we want to concentrate on,” she said.

Mr Twyford then asked whether she’d influenced her caucus colleagues on the Social Services Committee to vote against the proposal, considering “they’d been supportive” of it before.

“I didn’t instruct the caucus to do anything. We had a discussion and we came to it as a collective,” Ms Bennett replied.

Nevertheless, Labour and the Greens will soldier on with the investigation, which will include hearings in a number of main centres for public submissions.

Mr Little welcomed the involvement of any other political party which wanted to join the cause.

“It is disturbing that National MPs on the committee were supportive of our proposal, but they appear to have been slapped down by the Prime Minister who ruled out an inquiry on Monday,” Mr Little says.

Greens’ social housing spokeswoman Marama Davidson says the Government could have supported a cross-party inquiry but instead have “chosen to ignore” the problem.

“You only have to walk along Courtenay Pl and Queen St to see that homelessness is growing in this country and, as MPs, we can’t stand by and watch that happen,” she says.

“I have seen first-hand how serious the homelessness crisis is, but the Government is refusing to take any meaningful action, and people are hurting.”

Under questioning by her in the House this afternoon, John Key said the rate of homelessness had increased under his prime ministership.

The plight of the homeless, including those living in their cars has come to the fore over the past few months.

A number of protests and support events have been held across the country in which people with homes spend the night in their cars.

Mr Little says the idea for the inquiry initially came from the Coalition to End Homelessness – a group of NGOs working with the homeless.

National are faltering in managing this political attack, and the Media-party-assisted pressure from the left is resulting in poorly thought out strategy and public statements from the government.

Labour and the Greens are smelling blood, and they may actually be onto something, for once.

It is the perfect problem to use to put the government’s feet to the fire because it simply can’t be solved quickly. If managed well, it will be dragged right into the election cycle.

All of this is primarily emotional. Once you quantify the actual homeless, and the reported increase of the homeless numbers, they are fairly insignificant in the greater scheme of trying to manage a country. Yet the share of media and political capital spent on this, building it as a national shame in the voters’ minds, has already been substantial.

Key, Smith and Bennett have tried confidence, bluster and sticking-plaster policy that haven’t survived scrutiny past the headline.

You have to hand it to Labour; they’ve finally managed to strike a vein and have the government on the back foot.

There will be a lengthy recess after today, so National spin doctors will be looking to the quiet period to see how things develop. Word is, however, that there is a plan B in the works – something that’s going to wipe the housing and homeless issues off the front pages for a while.

The problem remains. The homeless and housing issues are simply not fixable this side of the general election. All that National can do is tell the voters that they are ‘working on it’.


– Newshub

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