‘Contact support agencies directly if you have concerns about car rough sleepers’: Auckland Council

A woman had been sleeping in this Suzuki Swift since March, locals said. Photo/Michael Craig

Auckland Council is reviewing reporting processes to ensure its teams are better prepared to respond to calls about people sleeping in cars.

Last week, a woman found dead in a car in Remuera was wrongly classified as a freedom camper following complaints filed with the town hall.

However, a spokeswoman for the council did not reveal how many complaints the council had received about people sleeping in vehicles, saying it “would not paint an accurate picture” of homelessness in the city.

“We urge caution when making general assumptions about people sleeping in cars,” she said.

“Free camping, where people passing through a location choose to spend the night or two nights in a vehicle, is a common occurrence and is permitted in some locations.”

Police cordon after the discovery of a woman's body in a car in Remuera.  Photo/Michael Craig
Police cordon after the discovery of a woman’s body in a car in Remuera. Photo/Michael Craig

She said the council’s compliance team monitors free camping and responds when an issue or situation is raised.

Last week, the council’s compliance response and investigations manager, Kerri Fergusson, said the woman found dead in her car had been mistaken for a freedom camper.

The woman is believed to be in her 70s and has used her Suzuki Swift as her home. Local residents said she had been sleeping in the car since March.

The council received a complaint about the car on St Vincent Ave in May and several follow-ups thereafter.

“We erroneously classified and later closed (the complaint) as a free-camping incident — rather than a situation that required escalation,” Fergusson said at the time.

The spokeswoman said while the council is not an organization equipped to address the wellbeing or mental health needs of individuals, it has established relationships with support agencies and plays a supporting role with of these agencies – in a more “behind the scenes” way.

She said responses are handled on a case-by-case basis, as they recognize that effective outreach takes time, is specific and focuses on the individual.

“Issues of homelessness are also occurring throughout the region and various agencies are responding to reports of sleeping rough in cars,” she said.

“On many occasions, help desks will work together to notify each other of a problem or resolve it.

“Because of these nuances, it would not be possible to paint an accurate picture by simply collating numbers based on complaints.”

The spokeswoman urged people to contact social support agencies directly if they had concerns about homelessness or homelessness, as many people in these situations are well known to those agencies.

Police said after the body was found the death was not suspicious and the matter would be referred to the coroner.