Kyra is the Rotorua Daily Post's police, emergency and court reporter.

Marae keen to house homeless

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OPEN TO HELP: Eraia Kiel says Apumoana would like to help house the homeless. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
OPEN TO HELP: Eraia Kiel says Apumoana would like to help house the homeless. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

One Rotorua marae is looking to open its doors to the homeless, but others in the community aren't so sure about the idea.

Apumoana Marae committee member and spokesman Eraia Kiel said the committee had been discussing the housing problem in Rotorua and wanted to do something to help.

"According to some of our older members, they remember when they were young they catered for people who were less fortunate and they helped people who were passing through.

"The marae was a place to stay and take shelter."

He said the committee was due to meet again last night to discuss details but "we know there's a need in Rotorua for housing at the moment".

"We need some repairs on our electricals before we can house people, but we have a good space and we are really keen to help in that space and we would encourage many of our other marae to do so as well.

"It's about the community helping the community."

He said they were still discussing how to go about choosing the families they helped but they were looking at just one family at a time.

"We aren't too sure when we will be able to start housing people but we hope it will be soon," he said.

Waiariki MP and Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell has recently been a catalyst to bring together community groups to try to tackle the issue of homelessness.

He said although those groups had been using a local marae as a base to discuss the issue and help those in need he "wasn't keen on the idea" of marae taking in homeless.

"We would like to think the state should be able to help out first.

"I can see why the marae would do it because of their manaakitanga [hospitality] and compassion, but I think it's a state issue."

He said it could take a toll and a lot of resources from the marae and that was something the Government should be providing.

He said the hub he had built with a number of other community agencies over the past few months was beginning to improve things.

"The problem is the lack of co-ordination from the agencies, the hub has helped us deal with some of these problems."

He said there was definitely a problem with homelessness in Rotorua, but it was hard to gauge if the issue was getting better or worse.

"I don't think we have been able to nail how big the problem is. We haven't been able to get a good gauge because some homeless don't want to come forward and there are a number of people who are happy living the way they are."

Te Takinga Marae committee member Katie Paul said her committee believed its marae was too far out of town - and there were other factors to consider.

"Tourists quite like to experience staying on a marae, which is really great because it's additional income.

"But the problem that occurs is when someone dies everyone has to move for three days because the priority is the tribal family.

"But it might be that Apumoana has enough room and they can help."

Ngati Whakaue kaumatua Monty Morrison agreed with Mr Flavell homelessness was a Government issue rather than a marae issue.

"My initial reaction is it's a wonderful gesture [by Apumoana Marae], but I'm not quite sure that it's the answer we need.

"I think it's the Government's responsibility."

Huia Ketcham recently told the Rotorua Daily Post she had rooms that could help the homeless but didn't know where to go. Since her story appeared she had had people come and stay with her, she said.

"We have had people coming to stay for just a night here and there or three nights over the last few weeks."

She said it was great to be able to tide people over until they found somewhere more permanent.

Where to get help:

Love Soup Rotorua: Gina Peiffer (020) 402 95203
Rotorua Salvation Army Community Ministries: (07) 346 8113
Lifewise Rotorua - Lifewise Mental Health and Addictions Services: (07) 3486 239

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