When The People's Project office opened in central Tauranga this month, 10 people were waiting outside at 8.30am.

By the end of the day, 22 people had been through the door. That number grew to 66 within the first 16 days.

Some had been sleeping rough for a long time and were malnourished and tired, staff said. Some were unwell, both physically and mentally.

Thirty-seven were considered to be chronically homeless and were registered as eligible clients for the new service.

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The People's Project – which first started operating in Hamilton – works to the Housing First model and seeks to end chronic (long-term, unsheltered with multiple and complex needs) homelessness.

It aims to house 100 people over two years in Tauranga.

Service manager Simone Cuers told the Bay of Plenty Times this week that it was a realistic target.

"It's the model that ends homelessness," she said. "It's a game changer."

The Ministry of Social Development is funding The People's Project in Tauranga for two years. The Tauranga City Council has provided a $70,000 grant for one year.

The team has five case managers, one front-of-house person and one manager.

"What's different about Housing First is that it is about getting a person into the house first, there's no prerequisite," Cuers said.

"So you don't have to address your addictions, you don't have to address your mental health issues and become stable before you get the housing. You can go directly into housing and then we work to provide the wrap-around support services to stabilise that person into that tenancy."

The support services include counselling, mental health or addiction services, or learning disability support (to name just a few).

When people first go into the office on Grey St in the CBD, they get a hot drink and something to eat.

Those who are not eligible for the service are still provided with information and advice, and can use office computers to search for housing.

Simone Cuers is service manager of The People's Project in Tauranga, which opened its doors for the first time earlier this month. Photo / Andrew Warner
Simone Cuers is service manager of The People's Project in Tauranga, which opened its doors for the first time earlier this month. Photo / Andrew Warner

Cuers said each eligible client had an individual housing and case plan tailored to their needs as no two homeless people were the same.

So far 10 clients had been referred into emergency accommodation and 17 were being helped with rental applications and viewings. Two social housing applications had also been made.

Cuers said most chronically homeless people had a family history of domestic violence, drug use, abuse and neglect.

"And so they've never transitioned into adulthood in a way that we would have, in terms of entering into a stable, adult life."

The People's Project works with all clients long-term. If a permanent house is not immediately available, they look for emergency accommodation to get people off the street.

When someone does get into a permanent house, case managers visit them as often as is required. That could be every day to begin with, and then once a week or several times a week.

Majority of clients are placed in private rentals, and some in social housing.

Cuers said her team were already working with local real estate agents and were eager to hear from more agents, property managers and investors who wanted to be involved.

She said 80 per cent of the people who go through the Housing First service stay in housing permanently.