Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Te Tuinga trust joins forces with Merivale

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Merivale Community Centre manager Tahau Te Kani said  the centre dealt with people every day that needed somewhere to stay or were living in houses that had beds in every room except the bathroom, toilet and laundry - with young mums and children living in unlined garages. Photo / John Borren
Merivale Community Centre manager Tahau Te Kani said the centre dealt with people every day that needed somewhere to stay or were living in houses that had beds in every room except the bathroom, toilet and laundry - with young mums and children living in unlined garages. Photo / John Borren

Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust is to join forces with the Merivale Community Centre in stage two of its Whare 4 Whanau Project, called Whare Tauranga - A Place to Call Home - with ambitions for a housing village.

On Friday, the Tauranga Moana Maori Trust Board gifted two buildings rent-free at The Strand for one year to Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, which would accommodate three homeless families within weeks.

Tommy Wilson.
Tommy Wilson.

Executive director Tommy Wilson said the board had provided the "jumper leads" to kickstart the project and provide an "oasis" for families living in cars, caravans, sheds and garages.

"It will take three months to work on each family and apply our social services, super glue to fix up the broken pieces," Mr Wilson said.

The long-term plan was to deal with the city's ongoing crisis - the organisation had a contract for 250 interventions "that is knocking on the door of 1800", he said.

"We see the whanau or family unit as the primary area of concern, and keeping these whanau together under one warm, dry roof this winter is the priority for us."

The organisation would lobby strongly for part of an estimated 60 emergency housing places allocated to the Bay of Plenty, announced in the Budget by the Ministry of Social Development and had teamed up with other iwi to support Accessible Properties Ltd bid on Housing New Zealand's 1124 Tauranga state homes sell off.

"If we can bring six of these houses that are coming up with this consortium and start an emergency housing village 'Whare 4 Whanau' we can make some serious gains into solving this housing crisis.

"Once they have a warm, dry roof over their heads we will look at transitioning them into short-term and then long-term housing."

Mr Wilson said the service was kaupapa Maori driven and shared similar philosophies with Merivale Community Centre so it made sense to bring them on board.

"For far too long Merivale has been standing out there in the cold on its own and has struggled to get serious support so we are like a big brother to awhi them and together we are stronger and that's very cool." But he was critical of some groups that had jumped on the homeless bandwagon and did not have the expertise or services to remedy the issues.

"There have been far too many 'war' stories highlighting the problem and pointing the bone of blame whereas we have chosen to direct our energy and resources into solution based outcomes. Te Tuinga has been around for the last 25 years looking after the homeless and I expect we will be around a lot longer than most 'pop-ups' who have great intentions but very few resources or experience to look after these families."

It was like "calling out a security guard to solve a major police problem", he said.

"You need to get the professionals in there to do the work because if you get the wrong people trying to help, who don't know what they are doing, all your resources are dissipated and get wasted."

Merivale Community Centre manager Tahau Te Kani said the centre dealt with people every day who needed somewhere to stay, or were living in houses that had beds in every room except the bathroom, toilet and laundry - with young mums and children living in unlined garages.

Last month a community hui was called at the centre that brainstormed solutions, including maraes opening their doors and creating a repository of houses for temporary accommodation.

Two-bedroom houses in Merivale were commanding rents of $380, which "is just crazy".

Mr Te Kani said both organisations would benefit from working together.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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