Supporting people to maintain their tenancies

Sustaining Tenancies is a homelessness prevention service that CMM has provided since October last year, funded by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

The service helps individuals, families, and couples to address the problems that impact their ability to maintain their tenancy, with the goal of keeping people in their homes to prevent the spiral into homelessness that too often occurs. Sustaining Tenancies applies a human-rights, advocacy, and social justice informed approach.

The service is client-driven, recognising that no two clients have the same story. Depending on an individual’s needs, whānau-led goal plans are developed that could entail advocacy with landlords, support to navigate social and health services, and referrals to budgeting services and life skills coaching.

Sustaining Tenancies worker Vivienne describes the model as a game-changer as staff are able to provide genuinely individualised support. As she puts it: “If you let people lead their own journey, they’re going to be successful.”

For people who are disempowered or alienated from services, gaining the confidence to speak up for themselves is truly transformative. Vivienne has found clients feel better able to make phone calls and ask questions after they’ve seen her role-modelling these interactions.

Collaboration with a wide-spectrum of organisations and services is key to the service’s success, including referrals to other CMM services such as financial mentoring and group programmes to develop strengths and skills, discuss life issues, and overcome isolation.

Hoarding is a common barrier to maintaining a tenancy. Vivienne observes that a hoarding addiction almost always comes from a place of grief and trauma, and that the problem cannot be solved until these core issues are addressed. Internationally-recognised hoarding addiction resources recently acquired by the team allow clients to self-identify their hoarding behaviours and habits. Vivienne notes that this process of self-reflection has sparked valuable conversation and recognition in many clients.

In one case, Vivienne advocated on behalf of a couple to acquire storage space, providing them with reassurance and a sense of control and security over their belongings. Through her support, the couple engaged with counselling services for the first time in their lives; and just recently, one of the partners independently selected items from their home to donate, a major breakthrough for anyone with hoarding behaviour.

This story is one of many that show the life-changing improvements our Sustaining Tenancy workers empower their clients to achieve.

Vivienne notes there is significant need for a model like this and that she has seen swift uptake of the service since it began. “It’s been extremely well-received… we’re not just working in isolation; it’s about the whole whānau in the house.”