Night shelter for homeless set

By Sandra Conchie

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NEW USE: The former YHA buildings in Elizabeth St are set to become the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter for homeless men when its doors open next month.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
NEW USE: The former YHA buildings in Elizabeth St are set to become the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter for homeless men when its doors open next month.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

A night shelter for Tauranga's homeless men is set to open next month.

Last Friday the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter Trust took ownership of the former Youth Hostel Association buildings in lower Elizabeth St.

Tauranga Safe City co-ordinator and trust member Mike Mills said the opening date was yet to be finalised, but the eight trustees, including Community Constable Matt Elliott, had agreed it would not be appropriate to open until they were satisfied the staffing mix was right.

Once the building was open it could house up to 20 men, although the former hostel had accommodated up to 40 backpackers, he said.

Mr Mills said the trustees were looking at potential candidates for the various roles, including a part-time office manager, two "house parents", overnight supervisor, and part-funding a fulltime social worker.

Five years ago the Tauranga City Council agreed to give $118,000 towards the night shelter from the non-rates funded Stewart Trust.

Since then the trust had also received a $245,288 grant from the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust.

Mr Mills said those grants meant there were sufficient funds to buy the buildings as well as have some left over to provide a cushion during the establishment phase. Some funds, he said, had already been set aside for security.

The shelter sits on land owned by the city council.

Last month Mayor Stuart Crosby said the council would provide the land for a peppercorn rental - $1 a year but the night shelter trust would be liable for the rates.

Mr Mills said the night shelter was not just a place for the homeless to doss down but there would be support services, including a social worker to work with the men to try to get them back into mainstream accommodation and employment.

Housing single men was a huge challenge, particularly those who had lived on the streets for extended periods of time, he said.

"We're not saying this shelter will be the panacea for all the homeless problems in Tauranga. But it [relates] back to the fundamental human right that everyone is entitled to have a safe, warm, dry place to sleep. Our success can be measured in doing that, and also if we can help people to find more secure housing and move forward in their lives."

Mr Mills said the shelter would accept clients through agency referrals after an assessment process, and self-referral but it would not be used as a dumping ground for those with highly complex needs.

"A lot of the streeties are pretty well known to our trustees already," he said.

Over the coming weeks the trust would be in talks with Work and Income about accommodation assistance for clients, but the trust also relied on donations and fundraising to cover operating costs and other expenses going forward, he said.

YHA chief executive Mark Wells said while YHA no longer had a presence in Tauranga, the association was in discussions with several local operators and he expected new accommodation would be sorted in the near future.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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