A night shelter to house the growing numbers of homeless women sleeping rough in Tauranga has been selected as a top funding priority from TECT.
The push for a night shelter for women emerged at a Tauranga City Council meeting this week when Bev Edlin convinced her fellow councillors to make it their top priority for the future project funding application to TECT.
This week's decision followed the opening of a night shelter for men nearly two years ago that has helped put many lives back on track.
Cr Edlin said it would be for homeless women living on their own or with children. "We are starting to see more and more women, some with their children, sleeping in cars."
The night shelter would not be for women escaping domestic violence - they were already helped by the Tauranga Women's Refuge.
"We have a night shelter for men, but what are we doing for women? I am really keen to see that children are not sleeping in cars," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.
The problem was being driven by escalating property values and landlords selling houses. This led to women moving out of rentals and having nowhere else to go, she said.
Cr Edlin said it would operate on a similar basis to the men's night shelter where they were put in touch with social services to get the help they needed. "They are doing a brilliant job at the men's shelter."
No one knew the exact numbers sleeping rough, but there were about five or six women sleeping in their cars nightly.
Patron of the men's night shelter and Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the project would start with scoping the size of the problem and other basic research. He was confident they would find the money for this first step in the process.
If the study proved there was a need, the next step was fundraising and finding a building to convert into a night shelter. This was where grants from TECT and other funding organisations were vital.
"The rapid growth in homelessness has come to the fore. We should provide transitional shelter for women."
Councillor Steve Morris supported using funds from the council-administered Stewart and Carruthers trusts to fund a feasibility study and business case. "It would give funders the confidence to grant money for the night shelter."
A woman who slept rough in downtown doorways told the Bay of Plenty Times that she found homeless women in all sorts of places.
Asking to be only known as Helen, she said that sometimes they were women wanting to move on from relationships and fend for themselves, but could not find a place to live. She looked forward to getting the same shelter now provided to men.
In the meantime, she was hugely grateful for people who helped them with food, clothing and a listening ear. "These people make a difference in our lives. We could never repay them for their kind acts of love."
Helen said women had told her stories of living in tents and orchards.
"I have seen them living in doorways or in parks and slides on the waterfront. "
The Bay of Plenty Times has this week been running a week-long series into concerns about Tauranga's hidden homeless.