Homeless forum makes progress

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FILE PHOTOGRAPH
FILE PHOTOGRAPH

A second forum to discuss the issue of homelessness was held at the Rotorua District Council (RDC) Civic Centre this week, with wide representation from community partners who work with homeless people.

The forum was held to present the findings of work undertaken since the first Night Shelter forum in February, and to seek community agreement on a way forward for the Night Shelter Society.

Work undertaken by council staff had involved research into the extent of the homeless problem in Rotorua, and gathering information about services currently available.

Councillor Janet Wepa, portfolio lead for the council's Sustainable Living Strategy, said it had become clear that there was already a substantial amount of work being done to care for the homeless in Rotorua. She said creating a night shelter might therefore not be the priority at this time.

"There are currently at least six organisations providing emergency accommodation for Rotorua residents, and at least seven groups providing free food. There are also agencies providing assistance with travel costs for non-Rotorua residents, advocacy support, and free medical, mental health and addiction services.

"At the first forum, it was agreed that what was needed in the first instance was a greater understanding of what organisations currently do, and better communication between those organisations," said Mrs Wepa.

A directory of homeless services is currently being compiled, with a new chapter to be added to the council's 2014 Good Health Directory. A 'quick guide' is also being developed, listing all organisations that provide assistance with accommodation, food and other immediate needs.



Those resources would assist anyone working with homeless people to quickly find out what services are available to meet the needs of those individuals.

Research had also enabled gaps in services to be identified, such as emergency accommodation for families in need and access to shower and laundry facilities.

Rotorua Community Night Shelter Society chair Barney Jewell said the society was currently looking to set up a new base where people would be able to access information about services available to the homeless, with volunteers providing immediate assistance to those in need.

"By supporting those organisations currently working with the homeless in Rotorua, we'll go a long way to solving the problem of homelessness in our community. We'll continue to monitor the need for a night shelter, but the current focus is on supporting the work of other organisations," said Mr Jewell.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said it was great to see progress on the issue and a greater understanding of services already available in the city.

"Through the partnership with the Night Shelter Society and other community stakeholders, I believe we're on the right track for finding sustainable solutions to the problem. The council will continue to work together with these parties and provide support.

"I look forward to the day when everyone in our community who needs a home, has access to one. That would fit well with our Rotorua 2030 vision, and I think it's something we should all aspire to."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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