Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discusses the housing emergency in Rotorua.
Mental health and addictions staff helping the homeless at a Rotorua hotel have been sacked on safety grounds after a guest had a psychotic episode.
Lifewise has raised serious concerns about the appropriateness of
the Four Canoes Hotel housing homeless people with complex needs.
The government contracts the Fenton St Hotel for accommodation, but does not have council resource consent for this. It is home to over 30 residents, some of whom have complex mental health and addiction issues.
Lifewise took over the contract from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development for the hotel operations of Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust, which had been there since the March 2020 lockdown.
The hotel was contracted as part of a Covid-19 response to give rough sleepers or people living in overcrowded homes a place to self-isolate.
The government has since pledged to house them until longer-term accommodation is found.
Lifewise chief executive Haehaetu Barrett expressed concern about what they discovered when they resumed operations this month.
She said she and Lifewise Regional Manager Tepora Apirana did not believe Four Canoes Hotel was a suitable site for her current use and wanted to explore other locations.
On Monday, a hotel guest had a psychotic episode from methamphetamine and was taken to the inpatient unit at Rotorua Hospital for withdrawal assistance, Barrett said.
Following the incident, Lifewise staff were no longer based at the site for health and safety reasons, as staffing levels were not at the levels required to meet complex needs.
Barrett declined to elaborate on the incident.
Barrett and Apirana said staff would support those living there through managed daily visits. Security was still based at the hotel.
They believed the building itself was unsuitable as it had breakable windows, too many entry points, blind spots and was on a busy road.
Barrett said they are working with community and government providers to find solutions.
“That’s my hope with everyone involved, we’ll have a wellness center for those with complex needs but the city center is not the place for that.”
The community surrounding the hotel shouldn’t have to endure what they witnessed on Monday, she said, and guests deserved better care.
“I am unhappy with the community’s response to date to this very complex group and we are working to make changes to provide better support to agencies.”
The department’s director general of partnership and performance, Will Barris, said he was not aware of any issues in the past two years.
When asked if the Fenton St location – a busy road and the gateway to Rotorua – was appropriate for people with mental health and addiction issues, Barris said the accommodation of ER was an alternative to rough sleepers in dangerous and unhealthy situations.
The Rotorua Daily Post Weekend asked if the hotel was unsafe for people with complex needs and if the department would investigate.
Barris said the safety of staff, customers and the local community was a priority.
“We recognize that the situation is difficult for everyone involved and are concerned for the health and safety of tenants and those who support them. We are working with Lifewise to identify further practical measures. [the ministry] could take to support health and safety at Four Canoes. »
Additional security would be put in place if necessary.
Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust spokesman Rawiri Bhana said the nature of his contract was not to provide clinical support but to install clients at the hotel and create a plan, based on their needs, to access support services.
Social workers also aimed to help clients find longer-term accommodation.
If the problems had escalated to a point they couldn’t handle, they would have made changes.
“We recognize [were clients] there with high and complex needs and our staff often had difficulty accessing the appropriate support to [them].”
The trust had 24-hour security on site to ensure everyone was safe, he said.
He said the trust acknowledges some responsibility that the condition of the building “has not been made worse”.
The trust accepted the contract with the best intentions to support whānau for a time of need, but it was never intended to be long-term, Bhana said.
He worked for a smooth transition with Lifewise – an obvious choice due to his expertise in mental health and addictions.
“We knew the clinical skills they bring could only improve access to support to enable even better outcomes for whānau.”
When asked if it was too difficult to manage clients with high needs, Bhana said her role was to help clients access health, social services, employment and needs finances and to secure longer-term housing.
“We often had to advocate on their behalf to ensure our whānau got the specialist support they often needed from the agencies tasked with providing this. That was often the hardest part, working with an already overstretched system. .”
The trust employed seven people. Three had found other jobs and four worked for Lifewise.
When asked if the ministry’s model kept people safe, Bhana said most people staying at the hotel were rough sleepers and were often not engaged with the support they “desperately needed. “.
“Having a roof over their heads, a warm place to sleep and a team of people advocating for them with security in place created a safer place for them.”
Restore Rotorua chairman Trevor Newbrook said it was good that the hotel’s problems were made public, but he said local people should be consulted on how to address concerns.
“We are also vulnerable.
“People need help and should get it but is the center of Rotorua on a main street the right place?”
He called on the government and council to ensure the hotel had the proper resource consent.
“For the people of Rotorua, that’s enough.”
Motels and hotels running emergency accommodation in Rotorua do not have council resource consent as they are only permitted for short term visitors.
The department sought resource consent for 12 city motels to run emergency housing for five years, but Four Canoes is not one of them, so the housing operation was illegal under the plan. district.
The Rotorua Lakes Board is now taking a tough approach with other non-contract emergency accommodation motels and has threatened some with legal action, but not Four Canoes.
The council has previously said it is taking “a staged approach” to minimize impacts for people in hotels and motels.
Asked again about Four Canoes this week, a council spokesman confirmed there was still no consent for the resources and that he was liaising with the ministry and operators.
The Rotorua Daily Post Weekend asked police for information on how often he was called to the hotel and why.
Rotorua Police Zone Commander Inspector Phil Taikato responded via the Police Communications Team with a statement which read: ‘The role of the police is to make sure everyone in our community is safe and feels safe, and we work alongside a range of community partners to do this.There is great work being done by social service providers in Rotorua to help support our most vulnerable.”