A unique Auckland cafe that feeds the city's homeless residents side-by-side with some of its more well-heeled is asking for more support from the public.
Merge Cafe on Karangahape Rd serves on average more than 30,000 meals each year, having dished out 3683 in May and 2968 in April, up from about 2000 meals a month in 2015.
It looks to attract diners from all walks of life, selling locally roasted coffee and lunch and breakfast dishes for as little as $4 a pop, while those in need get meals for free thanks to donations from others who pay for them in advance.
Set up by Methodist support group Lifewise, the eatery also acts as a doorway so homeless people can meet welfare teams offering other support services.
To raise funds and help keep the cafe performing these dual roles, Lifewise is holding Merge & Dine on July 12 at the Auckland University of Technology.
Featuring entertainment and "great food" made by hospitality students, the dinner will seat homeless residents alongside corporate heavy hitters, such as Sky City chief executive Graeme Stephens and TPT Group Holdings managing director Mike Marr.
Merge Cafe manager Manu Kahlon said the event - like the cafe - aims to bring down barriers by creating a welcome space for everyone "regardless of their background or their social and economic status".
"Our goal is to merge," he said.
Lifewise last year placed 44 homeless people into rental homes as part of a pilot Housing First programme in partnership with other support groups, and chief executive Moira Lawler said Merge Cafe played a key role.
Housing First placed homeless directly into houses before dealing with any mental health or addiction issues, and Merge gives them a place to come eat and have a chat with friends.
"We know that once people are housed, they need a way to connect with community and contribute their talents," she said.
"Merge Cafe is a cornerstone to providing this support."
Those that come in to the cafe can access Lifewise workers for help finding housing, information about their Government benefits or navigating mental health and other support services.
They could also get budgeting advice and details of fun community activities they may want to take part in.
More simply, the cafe, which opened in 2010, gives homeless people a more dignified place to go, somewhere where "they won't be judged or made to feel different", Lawler said.
Tickets to next week's Merge & Dine event cost a minimum donation of $200.
Being Lifewise's main fundraiser this year, Lawler urged people to support the diner and also consider regularly dropping into Merge Cafe for coffee and a meal.
Merge Cafe is a place where everyone "can merge and make a difference for others", she said.