Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die, so the song goes.

It's a bob each way look at life and the same could be said about the homeless, where everybody wants them to have a safe warm house for the winter and beyond but, and there's the rub, as long as it is not next to them.

For most of us, the haves and the have-nots are a reflection of the reality we could all face one day or have faced at some time already, when life's cards are, at times, dealt to us from an unfair deck.

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The residents of Papamoa who have put up a protest to having a group of emergency houses in their backyard should try to understand what it is like to have not and face a winter on the floor of a shed or in the back of a car, as 40 families are facing this winter in Tauranga Moana.

While it is sad we as a community have homelessness at all, unlike the certainty of death, we can do something about the eventual pathway the unfair deck of cards will take many of our Maori whanau, who make up 98 per cent of the client base we look after at Te Tuinga.

We can wait for the Whare Fairy to show up, and we can shout out across the front pages about the war stories of mothers with nine kids and nowhere to go.

But, and it's a big but, unless the Lotto fairy has waved its magic wand, the only solution, in my opinion, is to fix them up one family at a time, with what we call "a warrant of fitness".

Success stories, unlike war stories, travel fast in poorer communities as they have had a lifetime of being immunised and desensitised with bad news.

When families with no whare see the success of others who now have a warrant of fitness, they soon work out the pathway they want to follow, and if that pathway is Papamoa - kei te pai.

The front page story of the family of nine is one we face almost every day at Te Tuinga.

By the time this column is read, inside your nice warm whare, we will be working on how we can help support this front-page war story as we were only contacted late last Friday.

For us at Te Tuinga we direct our resources, time and energy away from war stories and towards the families who want to change their homeless lifestyles.

We have learned to let the war stories take their rightful place and thus far we have, without saying how sweet our own kumara tastes, housed 35 families directly into one of our stable of seven emergency homes since we started one year ago down on The Strand, courtesy of Tauranga Moana Trust.

Right now snuggled up safe and warm in G Town, The Vale, Gate Pa and Downtown Tauranga are 18 families with 47 tamariki - because the community cared.

Just this last two weeks, we have transitioned four families out of our emergency homes and into long-term accommodation by empowering them with the knowledge and skills to be good tenants.

This bridge-building recipe is simple.

By getting alongside the staff at the Ministry of Social Development and Accessible Properties, as well as community kingpins, local council and governmental leaders, no matter what political potae they may wear, the good news replaces the bad - we can make our city homeless-free.

Thus far we have had not one single complaint, according to my recent meeting with local councillors and chief executive of Tauranga City Council.

What we have had is tautoko and empathy from the kindest corners of our community with neighbours now babysitting our newest resident Little Awa, named after our Te Tuinga board member Awanuiarangi Black.

The educational scholarship we are all chipping in one dollar a week for will make sure he can carry on his namesake's endeavours to help those who need it most.

This is what keeps us going when the time gets tough - and they get real tough most days.

Just as our homeless need to know we care before they want to know what we know, we who work with them also need to know our community cares about the frontline we serve every day on their behalf.

Be it in downtown Merivale, G Town, Gate Pa or out in Papamoa - where for some sad reason there is a perception it will downgrade their lifestyles and affect the safety and sanctity of their own backyards.

Haere mai Papamoa, welcome the homeless with an open heart and be part of the solution.


tommykapai@gmail.com