The belief that rough sleeping numbers have dramatically increased in Auckland’s CBD during the pandemic is not necessarily correct, advocates say. Photo / Dean Purcell.
When workers began trickling back to the central city earlier this year, many felt there had been an explosion in the number of homeless people on the streets.
Downtown restaurants and retailers complained of yelling and altercations at night and worried about rising crime rates.
Business leaders and politicians called for the city to be “cleaned up”. In one extreme example, mayoral candidate Leo Molloy suggested blasting “undesirables” with high-powered hoses to move them on.
In reality, the number of rough sleepers in the central city is relatively low – around 30 or 40 people in the area around Queen St, according to the Auckland City Mission.
But there is a more complex situation with regard to emergency housing in the CBD.
There are hundreds of tenants in what have been called “Covid motels”. Homeless people from all over Auckland were brought into the CBD in March 2020 and rushed into emergency accommodation during the pandemic to keep them safe.
One housing advocate suggested that some of these tenants were “using the street as their living room” because their hotels, motels and apartments were isolated or had no living spaces. That had created a perception of a much broader problem.
Auckland City Missioner Helen Robinson said there was no evidence of a big increase in rough sleepers in the CBD. She was…