Central city house found for homeless

By Abigail Hartevelt

It's taken 10 years but backers of a night shelter are close to securing a property for Rotorua's homeless.

Rotorua Community Nightshelter Trust chairman Reverend Alex Czerwonka, from St Luke's Church, confirmed they had found a site but did not want to say where it was at this stage as there were still issues to be resolved with the Rotorua District Council.

"There are still some things to be done ... We are still negotiating with the council on it."

Rev Czerwonka said they wanted to tell neighbours before going public about where the property was and intended to meet them within the next fortnight.

"It's just a matter of courtesy."

The council set aside $30,000 a year for three years in last year's annual plan and Rev Czerwonka said the trust had to meet certain conditions to get the funding.

The trust was set up in 2000 and since then a number of properties had been considered for a night shelter but were found to be unsuitable or had fallen through.

Last year, the funding was allocated by the council after Rev Czerwonka made a submission saying he understood it was not a popular cause but there were no easy solutions for the problem of homelessness.

Rev Czerwonka said he was "pretty confident" about the site they had found. He said the site was close to the central city, had a very modest house and could accommodate up to seven people.

He said, initially, they would only be able to afford to open the shelter two to three nights a week but the intention was to eventually have a full-time facility and employ other staff and attract volunteers to help run it.

Rev Czerwonka said the trust had received advice that it did not need resource consent but they wanted to be certain about that.

"We are not a recognised activity under the District Plan. That is something that needs to be looked at."

He said council staff were assisting with that.

Rev Czerwonka said he did not know what would happen if neighbours were unhappy about the trust's plans.

He said the owner of the property was aware of the trust's intentions.

"They are happy to support our proposal. We will be paying rent at market levels."

The trust had received about 25 applications for the position of part-time manager and was about to start interviewing.

As well as the $30,000 a year for three years from the council, the trust already has $20,000 from a grant from the Rotorua Trust and money raised from a Rotary project.

The trust would seek financial support from community groups, churches and government organisations.

The night shelter would cost about $62,000 a year to run on a part-time basis but Rev Czerwonka said he did not know how much it would cost to run it full-time, as that still had to be calculated.

He said a night shelter had been a long time coming but he hoped to confirm details of where the property was by the end of next month.

Council community projects officer Bob Austin said the council was keen to see the shelter operating as soon as possible and had encouraged Rev Czerwonka to contact the council's planning department about whether a consent was required.

"Should a consent not be required then we can proceed to draw up a Contract for Services with the trust and obtain agreement from both parties."

He said once the contract was signed a proportion of the annual grant could be deposited in the trust's bank account.

If consent was required, then the council would help the trust to get consent as soon as possible, Mr Austin said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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