Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Marae opens doors to homeless

After six years as caretaker for Manurewa Marae, Toi Katipa never expected that he and his family would end up sleeping at the marae because they had become homeless.

Katipa, 44, his wife Lisa Tereva and their four children aged 15 to 3 have been sleeping in the marae's main meeting house for two weeks since Tereva's mother's landlord told them to move a cabin in which they had been staying at her rented home.

They will soon be joined by other homeless families in five portable two-bedroom units which the marae has leased for at least the next 12 weeks.

The first three units were moved on to the site on Friday and the other two are due this week, enabling the marae to open its doors to a waiting list of families, just as Te Puea Marae in Mangere announced it will close its doors to new families from July 31 to make way for a rebuilding project from the end of August.

"What we are doing is responding to a call for help from Te Puea Marae," said Manurewa Marae trustee Rangi McLean.

"We are getting the funding through the Ministry of Social Development to pay for them [the five units], and we will review the need for it on a daily basis once it officially launches."

The Katipa-Tereva family were renting a home in Manurewa for $430 a week for a year until early May. They moved out because of the strain of sharing their kitchen, bathroom and toilet with other tenants paying $280 a week for a sleepout behind their house.

"We had three different families come through," Katipa said.

"One was associated with gangs, so we had a drug bust pretty much in the first two weeks they were staying there.

"The second lot was some of our family who have already bought a house and moved on.

"The third lot, the landlord was going to put someone in that we didn't know. We left there and moved to stay with my mother-in-law.

"She put us on the property inside a cabin. Two of us and four children were staying in that cabin in the driveway of her house. But the landlord found out we were staying there, hence the reason why we are here."

McLean said the marae let them stay in the meeting house until the portable units are ready because they are "one of our families". Katipa's father is commemorated in a carving in the whare, Tereva's mother works at the marae, and Katipa was the marae caretaker until he left in February to set up a new business, Te Ao Marama Tourism, offering bus and walking tours and marae cultural experiences.

He has applied for another rented house through a marae board member and hopes to move in soon.

- NZ Herald

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