For two years Viv and his dog were sleeping rough. Now, thanks to Housing First, he has a place of his own and can start rebuilding his life.

Viv enthusiastically answers the knock on his door. "Come in!" he exclaims, "Can I offer you a coffee. I have just put the jug on."

Viv apologises for being tired but it's not noticeable. He is full of energy, conversation and, as he talks more about having been homeless, gratitude for Housing First. "I don't know where I would be without them. I would still be living in my car", he says.

Viv's homelessness began after losing a custody battle which led him into drinking and depression. "Everything just fell apart," he says. "I turned to alcohol. I was just drunk all day, every day. You are in a hole that you dug yourself into, but you can't get out without support. I am pretty happy that I have found that support now."

After the court case Viv went to Auckland to be with family. However, this didn't provide the support that he needed so he came back down to Christchurch halfway through 2016. Unable to secure a tenancy, the only option was to live in his car.

"It was a real fast drop and it's taken a lot longer to get back up," Viv says. "Living in a car is pretty hard to explain, you are very unsettled. You are always worried, you can't sleep properly. It was quite hard and I got used to hard."

When asked were there others in the same situation as him, Viv describes a scene most people would never have witnessed. "There are heaps," he says. "You don't really know that until you are sleeping in your car. When I was in Lyttelton there would be 30 other cars parked up at night. A few were freedom campers but most people were like me - living in their car."

When Viv first heard about Housing First he was initially sceptical. Having received promises from many people and organisations while homeless, he filled out the application without much expectation. Within a week he received a call from Tai Estall, a Key Worker for Housing First Christchurch.

"Once Tai called me we had a couple of meetings and then I was in the house," recalls Viv. "No talk, all walk. Housing First was on point. All I needed was some help getting into a house and then I can pick myself up after that."

After two years of living in a car with his dog and parking up at night in the bush, hills or beach, Viv felt overwhelmed as he walked into the house for the first time and realised it was his. "The first week that I moved in here it didn't feel real, it sort of still doesn't," says Viv. "I couldn't process what was going on. It has been a couple of years. Really overwhelming emotion. It is a massive weight off of my shoulders."

Now that he has a home, Viv is looking for part-time employment. He would eventually like to work full-time but wants to be more settled and have some better sleep before doing so. A builder by trade, Viv would like to get into the Christchurch rebuild.

Viv is one of over 20 people that have been housed by Housing First since the initiative started in Christchurch at the end of May. The Methodist Mission is the lead organisation with Emerge Aotearoa, Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust, Comcare, Christchurch City Mission and Te Whare Roimata also collaborating on the initiative.

"I have been at the bottom of the ladder," Viv says. "Now it's time to get back up."

HousingFirst Spring