But lawyers said that left them to find beds, feed them and act as social workers for vulnerable people seeking protection in New Zealand after fleeing life threatening situations in their own countries.

Barrister Maithili Sreen said in one case she tried 30 different places for a client who had slept three nights outside a church.

She said it was jeopardising their chances of getting refugee status and staying in New Zealand.

"When they don't have housing they don't have the basic needs to help them prepare for their refugee case which is so incredibly important because that determines whether they get to stay in New Zealand and have a safe future."

Refugee claimants often faced difficult, day-long interviews about their past.

"We've got victims of torture so they've being asked about their torture, sexual assaults.

"And to be able to talk about that you have to know that you've got the basics sorted," she said.

A lawyer specialising in refugee law, Deborah Manning. Photo: SUPPLIED

Lawyer Deborah Manning said homeless asylum seekers were asking for help at her office at least every two weeks, sometimes weekly.

"I know that its too much for our chambers for all of these constant social work needs that we're having to deal with, and when you've got the hostel shutting its doors, it's basically saying this is your problem now lawyers and so we're becoming a de facto hostel service for refugee claimants.

"Frankly I can't see any leadership in this sector for a solution to this problem," she said.