Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Call for ideas to help city's homeless

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Tauha Te Kani, Merivale Community Centre manager.
Tauha Te Kani, Merivale Community Centre manager.

Merivale community leaders are taking the hidden homelessness issue into their own hands and are looking for innovative ways to help the people suffering from Tauranga's housing crisis.

Tonight at Merivale School, members of the community are invited to attend a meeting where the public can suggest ideas to help people in need of housing.

Merivale Community Centre manager Tauha Te Kani said this would be a "solutions focused hui", and city leaders and representatives of government departments such as Work and Income had also been invited to attend.

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"Jan [Tinetti, Merivale School principal] and I have been in the media a bit in the last couple of weeks about this, so we had a sit-down and talked about bringing our community together and looking at its solutions to the problem."

Leaflets had been dropped in mailboxes around the suburb to get the public along to the meeting.

Mr Te Kani was admiring of the way Te Puea Marae in Auckland had opened its doors to the homeless and hoped similar solutions could be thought of in Tauranga.

"There are so many venues in Tauranga like the Merivale Action Centre that have bathroom facilities, toilets and showers, and kitchens, there are a number of churches available, iwi available. We could look at utilising some of these places, having these people sleeping in cars coming in and using these spaces for overnight accommodation," he said.

"I'm well aware there are a lot of logistics around safety and those sorts of things ... it's looking at options, those were just a couple I have off the top of my head."

Mr Te Kani said solutions mooted by Government were long-term but there were 10 Merivale School families living out of their cars right now.

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Some homeless people were on benefits but there were also working people who were struggling to find a house.

"We're looking at what we can do right now. I'm going to go to the supermarket [today] and see if they will be prepared to help us, if not, I will get stuff myself - get some pumpkin, bacon hock, put out the word that people can come here and get at least one solid meal a day."

Mr Te Kani said in the last couple of weeks, as stories about hidden homelessness had been brought to light, he had been contacted by groups from all over the city and as far away as Omokoroa with offers of help from people collecting items to donate to struggling families.

Jan Tinetti, principal of Merivale School, said the community was trying to be proactive.

"We know that we have a crisis situation going on now where we've got families that are really struggling."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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