Alana Mihi Dahm and her six children lived in a motel for seven days before moving into emergency housing with Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust last week.
In May the social agency was gifted two buildings rent-free for a year by the Tauranga Moana Maori Trust at The Strand, to kickstart its Whare 4 Whanau project and tackle the issue of Tauranga's hidden homeless.
Three families were now living there.
Ms Mihi Dahm, a mother of nine, said she moved to the city from South Auckland for a change of lifestyle more than two years ago.
"I wanted something different and new opportunities for my children."
The 38-year-old former chicken processing worker said she had secured a three-bedroom rental property in Gate Pa, but the landlord decided to sell up in April and finding another home proved difficult.
She missed out on about six homes because landlords did not want to take on a single mum with six kids, she said.
Ms Mihi Dahm applied to Housing New Zealand for a home and went to Work and Income New Zealand before being referred to Te Tuinga Whanau.
"They arranged the motel until this whare opened."
The facility was a "saviour" and "I would have cried with nowhere to go".
Te Tuinga Whanau provided wraparound social services and Ms Mihi Dahm said it was great living in the haven. "They have rules and regulations but we do what they ask."
She hoped to complete her Level 2 certificate in welding and fabrication from the NZ Welding School but finding a home was the top priority.
Te Tuinga Whanau social services manager Pikiteora Russell said three mothers and 13 children were currently living at the facility.
It had engaged with 140 people that were seeking emergency housing and on Friday the service dealt with seven families that had nowhere to go and needed crisis interventions.
"We try and find some solutions, they stay with friends or families and we have a couple of people in the community that have opened their houses for that. At the frontline we have got three phases that we are dealing with in regards to homelessness and we need to have people and options for each phase," she said.
"If someone has to be out that day, they need somewhere to go in the short-term for a couple of days to a week and then there is long-term, that is the ideal solution."
The organisation had two social workers; one had a caseload of 23 families and the agency needed more staff, she said.
However, the outreach from the community regarding Whare 4 Whanau was touching.
"The community has made a huge contribution ... we are a beautifully giving community at multiple levels."
Social worker Peter Williams said he had worked 17 days straight at the shelter helping families.
"I don't care, being here and helping these families is better than doing anything else."