A senior lawyer has raised concerns about an apparent change in shelter policy that could result in people being held on bail.
People in shelters have been told that a policy change will prevent them from living there just days before Christmas, a senior lawyer said in a letter to the government.
Nicola Hansen, president of the Canterbury Criminal Bar Association, wrote to the Department of Social Development (MSD) that their staff recently announced that bailed people “are no longer entitled to emergency assistance from MSD.”
She expressed concern that people unable to stay in such apartments on bail will be arrested for leaving their authorized address (when they have to move out) and then taken into custody.
But the MSD said there had been no policy change and nobody bailed out in emergency shelters would move out before Christmas.
* A large increase in the number of homeless young people in need of help across the country
* The state was paying $ 3,000 a week for “uninhabitable” homes
* New Zealand council housing waiting list members tripled in one month
Shelters usually do not meet the security deposit requirements, but the Department is aware that some people may use them on bail.
To get bail, a defendant needs an approved address where they can be safe. Without this address, you will most likely be taken into custody.
Emergency accommodation via MSD is provided for up to seven nights at a time, but can be extended for a maximum stay of 21 nights. Eligible individuals include those who have escaped domestic violence or who have left prison.
Hansen said she had a client who claims MSD told him he had to move out of his shelter by the end of Tuesday this week. He lived there for at least a couple of weeks, she said.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY / STUFF / Waikato Times
The Ministry of Social Development says no one will move out before Christmas.
Hansen said her client was told he had to move out due to a change in a policy that did not allow MSD to provide bail-out shelters to people.
She said he was told by MSD that there was nothing it could do for him.
Hansen said her client broke his bail when he moved out because he no longer lived at his approved address.
He faces two indictments and has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Shortly after speaking to Stuff on Wednesday, Hansen said she received a call from MSD informing her that her client would now be staying at a motel for Christmas.
There was no explanation for MSD’s sudden change of position, Hansen said.
“If people are denied access to emergency aid on bail, they will be placed in pre-trial detention,” she wrote in her letter to the ministry on December 18.
She didn’t get an answer.
Hansen said in her letter that she understands the change is nationwide and that people who are already on bail and in shelters are being asked to leave the country.
Karen Hocking, MSD’s general manager for housing, said in a statement that the ministry is aware that “a small number of people” use emergency shelters on bail.
“We are working with these customers on a case-by-case basis, working with the corrections department to help them find more suitable accommodation,” said Hocking.
“Nobody on bail is asked to move out of an emergency shelter over the Christmas period.”
“MSD has worked with the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Justice and Police to investigate the unsuitability of temporary shelters for those on bail or pre-trial detention.”