One emergency housing whare in Tauranga has become three, after two new homes, able to house seven families, opened today in Gate Pa.

The homes, like Whare Tauranga in the city, would give mothers and children temporary housing and provide wrap-around services.

Te Tuinga Support Services Trust was behind the emergency accommodation and would welcome seven new families into the homes by Monday.

Whare Awa - named after the late Awanui Black - and Whare Ora opened this morning on Cameron Rd.

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Tauranga City Council bought the land and two houses with the intention to turn it into a neighbourhood reserve next year.

However, while designs and planning were underway for the park, Te Tuinga Trust secured the two large homes as emergency housing with $80,000 in funding from the Maori Housing Network and help from the Ministry of Social Development.

Opening of Whare Awa on Cameron Rd -
Opening of Whare Awa on Cameron Rd - "an oasis in the city". Photo/Andrew Warner

"We're breaking new ground here. It's a big risk, but we took the risk with starting Whare Tauranga and learnt a lot, and now we have two more whare open and two more on the cards," Te Tuinga Trust chairman Bruce Bryant said.

He said it was hard on the staff taking on so much and there were some weeks he did not know if they could pay staff or not.

"We are funded to help five people a week; we help 80."

But the city council, Maori Housing Network, led by Te Puni Kokiri, and MSD came to the party to fund each family for 15 weeks in the houses.

Each family received wrap around services, like budgeting advice, and then were helped into a semi-permanent home.

Mr Bryant said the project could always use help in the form of donations or money.

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With the beautiful trees and plants surrounding the two homes, Mr Bryant said it was a true "oasis in the city" for people who have had a rough life.

Minister for Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell cuts the ribbon at the opening of two new Te Tuinga Support Services emergency homes. Photo/Andrew Warner
Minister for Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell cuts the ribbon at the opening of two new Te Tuinga Support Services emergency homes. Photo/Andrew Warner

Tommy Kapai Wilson, Te Tuinga's executive director, pushed the council to find empty council-owned buildings to turn into emergency housing.

"Food parcels and motels just don't cut it.

"People need to be healed."

He called Councillor Terry Molloy, who then made his own calls to council's property manager and it came to light council had recently bought two houses on large sections in Gate Pa.

Mr Wilson said the whare opened today were "like jumper leads. We are connecting people back into the world."

He said another two whare would be opened in two weeks, in Parkvale and the Avenues.

Minister for Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell was at the opening and cut the ribbon.

"Although I have the scissors and am doing the cutting, everyone here played a part in making this happen," he said.

He called Tommy Kapai Wilson a "miracle worker".

The network of emergency housing popping up in Tauranga filled an emergency housing gap but also packed in support mechanisms, he said. It was a model he said worked and was promoting it in other centres, like Rotorua.

Mr Flavell gave credit to Tauranga City Council for backing the project, saying they could have done other things with the land but chose to lend it to Te Tuinga.

Mother of two Stephanie Tapiata would be moving into Whare Ora this weekend.

She was being moved from Whare Tauranga, located on The Strand, to the new house and could not be more excited.

"I didn't get to sleep until 3am last night because I was so excited."

She and her daughter Maringi, 5, and son Tuterangiawhio, 10, had been desperately searching for a home at the beginning of the year when they were told to go to Te Tuinga for help.

"They were really choice and helpful. Being here makes us feel more at home instead of in a motel."