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Kiwi entrepreneur launches campaign to solve NZ homeless crisis

A Kiwi entrepreneur has launched a campaign to end homelessness in New Zealand, after realising the true scale of the issue is not being tackled.
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A businessman from Auckland has come up with a new way to tackle homelessness in New Zealand.

James Crow, who co-founded Nice Blocks ice block company and dairy free milk business Little Island Coconut Creamery, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help those living on the streets, after realising there was a lack of similar initiatives in place.

His app, Gimme Shelter, will allow members of the public to upload information securely about rough sleepers – which will then be analysed to assess the size of the homelessness problem in New Zealand.

The aim? To gather accurate data about homeless people in the country, so that something can then be done.

“We are looking at the bigger picture and providing something that is highly needed but so far we don’t have: good information,” says James, who grew up in Devonport, Auckland.

“We know it’s estimated that in 2006 there were as many as 5,000 people sleeping rough in New Zealand. With population growth, the Christchurch earthquakes and housing shortages this figure could now be in the range of 6,700 people – but it could be far greater. We just don’t know. And if we don’t have the data, NZ can’t find and allocate resources appropriately. Gimme Shelter intends to find out.”

Before creating the Gimme Shelter idea, James explains how he and his wife would meet a partially homeless man outside their local farmers’ market, and his story highlighted the seldom discussed problem in the city.

“He had a cramped trailer in South Auckland he could stay in but he had two girls living with his ex-partner and needed to come into the city every weekend to see them,” James explains.

“Any money he made while sitting there, he would give to his girls. These are just people trying to make life work like any of us, but because they have no walls or door to shut at night their private lives are out in the public. He was certainly my first real insight into how, while personal issues are always real for everyone, for the homeless it is a specific and major concern.”

Passionate about creating a solution, James says that 7,000 homeless is a totally manageable number for New Zealand to cope with.

“I’ve sat with many on the street and heard their stories; they are as diverse as anyone I’ve met at a community meeting or out for dinner. The only critical difference is they have no place to live.

“The issue we have in New Zealand is no one is keeping count of how bad the problem may be. When there is no solid information or data on an issue, it cannot be fixed, so all attempts at addressing it are ad hoc. Because of this, governments and politicians who want to make better policies just aren’t getting the statistics they need to make it a mandate to address. So for me, the numbers and data on the issue of rough sleeping is the first problem to tackle if we are going to fix this as a nation.”

The crowdfunding campaign ends on the 16th May and needs a further $16,000 to make the app a reality. You can donate and read more about the project here.

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