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Source: Auckland Council

As part of Auckland Emergency Management’s welfare support efforts across the region, mobile phones are being distributed to Auckland’s homeless community by the council and its non-government organisation (NGO) outreach and housing partners. The phones will help ensure that Auckland’s homeless continue to get the support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of rough sleepers have already been moved into emergency accommodation and now work is underway to ensure they have ongoing access to other essential services such as food, medical care and general welfare checks.

Councillor Fa’anana Efeso Collins says the delivery of the 150 pre-pay phones will help the outreach teams stay in contact with their service users during the Alert Level 4 lockdown.

“Our NGO outreach teams work hard all year round to support the needs of Auckland’s homeless communities, ensuring they have access to essentials such as food and shelter, and medical care including mental health and addiction services. However, the lockdown has put an additional strain on this already over-stretched resource.”

For some of Auckland’s rough sleepers, the interaction they have with the outreach teams may be their only form of social contact day-to-day. With the additional impacts that self-isolation can have on mental wellbeing, it is essential that they have the opportunity and means to reach out.

“By distributing the mobile phones, these essential teams will be able to maintain good levels of contact while also having time freed up to work on other important tasks such as sourcing emergency accommodation for those currently still sleeping rough,” continues Councillor Collins.  

The phones, which will all have $10 credit preloaded, have been jointly funded by Auckland Council and its telecoms partner Spark as part of the wider COVID-19 response. The Auckland Council funding comes from an existing budget for homelessness initiatives.

Spark CEO Jolie Hodson says Spark wants to make sure that all New Zealanders can stay connected during this unprecedented time, particularly those who are most at risk. 

“Connectivity has never been more important than it is now, during lockdown – especially for those who are vulnerable. So, when Auckland Council approached us to provide mobile phones to help support the homeless community, we were keen to help.”

Councillor Cathy Casey says it’s another great example of how businesses across the region are pulling together to support those most in need.

“During this challenging time, it’s great to see that Auckland Emergency Management has once again been able to come together with some of our dedicated partners including LinkPeople, VisionWest, Kāhui Tū Kaha and Spark, to find new ways of supporting Tāmaki Makaurau’s most vulnerable communities.”

As well as welfare checks, users will be able to use the phones to visit the COVID-19 and websites free of charge. The phones will also be pre-programmed with numbers for Healthline and the government COVID-19 helpline.