Night shelter for the homeless one step closer

By Michele McPherson

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Building blocks are in place for an ambitious plan for a night shelter for about half the homeless men sleeping rough in Tauranga.

Tauranga Moana Night Shelter Trust has finished a $20,000 feasibility study into the project and has nearly finished the business case needed to unlock nearly $120,000 of council-administered money.

Trust spokesman and Tauranga Safe City Co-ordinator Mike Mills said the problem with the homeless was not going to go away.

"If we don't address it, it threatens to overwhelm us," Mr Mills said.

Fitting out a night shelter in an established building inside Tauranga's central business district, preferably away from residential neighbours, was important.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Mr Mills said the feasibility study made it clear the night shelter should not be a dormitory-style doss house where men were jammed together. Instead it would be an intermediate step between sleeping rough and the men entering facilities offered by organisations such as Tauranga Community Housing Trust and Salvation Army.

Mr Mills anticipated the night shelter would offer up to 15 beds in a mix of single bedrooms and rooms with two or three beds.

If the trust got half Tauranga's about 30 homeless men on to a pathway to permanent accommodation, then that would be a pretty good strike rate, he said.

The feasibility study, written by Waikato University PhD student Shiloh Groot, recommended "wrap-around" services for the men entering the night shelter as a first step towards integrating them into a housed lifestyle. The assistance would deal with a range of issues facing the men including health problems, substance abuse and their benefits.

Mr Mills said a lot of things needed to come together for the project to happen, preferably starting with the council offering the trust a suitable building at a peppercorn rental.

A critical meeting for the future of the project takes place within the next couple of months when the feasibility study and business case are presented to the city council.

Mayor Stuart Crosby had gone from opposing the "lag pad" concept suggested by a community constable nearly three years ago, to becoming the night shelter trust's patron.

Mr Mills said the trust was working with council's property staff on finding a building that could be converted to a shelter. If a suitable premises was found, a manager would be appointed.

Part of the manager's job would be to raise the estimated 25 per cent of running costs that could not be met from the benefits paid to the homeless. The business case was based on Hamilton's night shelter.

Mr Mills said that once the money, staff and premises were nailed down, things would start to happen quickly. The council has earmarked $118,000 from the Stewart Trust, a trust dedicated to alleviating poverty.

However, the council will not release the money until it was satisfied with the building blocks for the project: the feasibility study and business case.

Ms Groot's PhD was on homelessness and included a two-year time and motion study on a group of Auckland homeless. Her feasibility study included input from Waikato University professor Darren Hodgetts who was involved in the Coalition to Eliminate Homelessness.

Mr Mills said the two brought considerable personal experience to the study and it was not just an academic exercise. Auckland Night Shelter manager Corie Haddock peer reviewed their work.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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