Plan to tackle homelessness launched

By Kyra Dawson

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Rawiri (David) Waru talked to the crowd at The Homeless Action Plan launch. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
Rawiri (David) Waru talked to the crowd at The Homeless Action Plan launch. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

The Rotorua Homeless Action Plan, New Zealand's first community-based action plan to end homelessness, was officially launched at The Third Place Cafe yesterday with more than 50 people in attendance.

A working party made up of representatives from community organisations has been researching and developing the action plan for the last few years.

Haehaetu Barrett, manager of Lifewise Rotorua Services, said the launch of the plan would not end homelessness, but it would create a platform for services to make a commitment to work together.

"We are too small here not to work together. We are a small tight community network and if we work with a strategy then what we should see in two years is a reduction of people who are falling through the cracks.

"The plan should draw together a collective impact," she said.

Moira Lawler, Lifewise Rotorua chief executive, launched the plan officially titled: Whiria te Aroha: Draw together the love and compassion.

She said homelessness happened because people fell through the cracks and the plan was put together to figure out how to prevent that from happening.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa board member Rawiri (David) Waru explained the meaning behind the name of the plan.

"The world could use a bit more aroha (love), it's about simple principles: love one another and treat each other with respect. It is people who take care of people."

Anna White from St John said she thought it was excellent that all the community groups were working together.

"Everyone has been doing their own thing and we all have our own strengths, but I'm hoping, with this plan, we will all work together to achieve the same goal. We will be stronger together," she said.

Corie Haddock, services manager and co-chairman of the New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness, said this was the start of something new and when people looked back in history they would see it as a significant day.

"This is the first ever community action plan developed in New Zealand, it gives the Rotorua community a plan to tackle homelessness."

Data from the Salvation Army, Rotorua District Presbyterian Church and other agencies showed more people needed help because they were homeless.

In 2013, they worked with 138 individuals or families who said they were homeless and needed help.

This increased to 178 in 2014 and was at 170 from January to September 2015.

Of those needing help in 2015, 83 per cent were living with friends or family while trying to find accommodation and 16.5 per cent said they were rough sleepers.

Mr Haddock said homelessness was defined as people who were living on the streets, in cars or inappropriate dwellings.

He said over-crowding was often an issue in Rotorua and accommodation quality was having an impact.

Community member Rawiri Te Kowhai said it was difficult for people at the moment because there were so few rentals around.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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