A headcount of homeless people has revealed up to 70 people sleep rough on the streets of Tauranga - and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In August Tauranga's rough sleepers were counted and recorded by name for the first time as part of an effort to build a true picture of homelessness in the city.

The research identified another 400 people who, while not sleeping rough, also fit the definition of homeless - Tauranga's hidden homeless.

Read more: Housing First expansion offers hope for Tauranga's homeless

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They included families living in cars, emergency accommodation, uninhabitable homes and moving between family and friends.

There were 20 beds in the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter, which was usually at capacity.

Simone Cuers from Tauranga City Council's community development team said the 400 figure was largely based on requests for emergency assistance to service groups.

She said this year's research, led by the multi-agency homelessness steering group, Our Community Project, was the first time clear data picture of homelessness in the city had been formed.

The findings were presented at a Tauranga homelessness hui last week, the third since the group first got together in December 2015.

Our Community Project chairwoman Steph O'Sullivan. File photo/John Borren
Our Community Project chairwoman Steph O'Sullivan. File photo/John Borren

It was attended by a cross-agency gathering of people trying to tackle what steering group chairwoman Steph O'Sullivan described as a "wicked social issue".

"When we first came together it felt a little bit helpless and a little bit overwhelming," she said.

They had trouble convincing people in power there was even a homelessness problem in affluent Tauranga.

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"They all thought it was Auckland and only Auckland. We lacked qualitative and quantitative data. It hadn't been done."

The data collected had since been used to present Tauranga's situation to city leaders and groups, funders, and central Government and galvanise people to get stuck into the issue.

"These issues have been brewing for 20 or 30 years," O'Sullivan said.

"They are systemic, wicked problems and we are not going to solve them overnight. But we are terriers and we won't let go."


Homelessness in Tauranga: the hard numbers

70 - rough sleepers in Tauranga
20 - beds available in the night shelter
400 - 'hidden' homeless
167 - people on social housing wait list
112 - number of homes owned by city's biggest community housing provider

Source: Homelessness hui

Ministry supports Housing First project for Tauranga

A major hurdle has been passed in the effort to bring to Tauranga a project that found secure homes for hundreds of homeless families in Hamilton.

The Ministry of Social Development has confirmed it will negotiate a funding agreement for a 'housing first'-style project in Tauranga and aimed to have the contract underway before Christmas.

Leading the local effort has been Our Community Project - a Tauranga homelessness steering group - and the Wise Group, which started the People's Project in Hamilton three years ago. They submitted a joint proposal to the ministry.

The People's Project emulated an international model for helping people facing a multitude of social challenges: first, house them. Not in a transitional or emergency house, joint-chief executive Julie Nelson said, but a steady home with a permanent address, furniture and food in the pantry.

She said once people had a home it was easier to get them other types of help.

In three years they gave 438 Hamilton people and families the keys to a home. Nelson said two-thirds were houses owned by private landlords and a quarter state housing.

The model has also been introduced in Auckland this year.

Nelson said the Ministry's move was great news for Tauranga, taking the city one step closer to making chronic homelessness rare, brief and non-reoccurring.

Our Community Project chairwoman Steph O'Sullivan said the first priority once the funding was in place would be for the group to set up a drop-in centre in the CBD "where people can reach a source of coordinated support".

Senior Constable Paul Wrigley, a trustee of the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter. File photo
Senior Constable Paul Wrigley, a trustee of the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter. File photo

Shelter considers expansion

The Tauranga Moana Men's Night Shelter has begun making plans to add 10 one-bedroom units to its facility on Elizabeth Street.

In a meeting on Tuesday shelter trustee, Senior Constable Paul Wrigley, told Tauranga City councillors the shelter had plans drawn up and were considering applying for resource and building consent.

They were talking to Habitat for Humanity about building the units, funding agencies about grants and BECA were doing some pro-bono planning work for them.

The small units would have a single bed, kitchenette, bathroom and shared veranda plus a shared laundry room.

Wrigley said single rooms could help transition the men from the shelter's shared dorms back into regular housing.

"They could have a degree of independence."

He said the average length of stay at the shelter was 35 nights. About 5 men were turned away each week and some men had been on the waiting list for a spot for two years.

"There is already a population of people that would fill up the shelter."