Homelessness is a serious issue that needs serious solutions.

It's a problem that, by all accounts, appears to be growing worse - not just here in the Bay, but throughout the country.

We've always had homeless people. But the sheer number of them seems to have exploded in the last two or so years.

They're more visible. Drive through town at night and you can see a handful of lonely men sheltering in shop doorways or curled up on park benches.

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But what can be done about it?

Tauranga has a night shelter for men that is often at full capacity. It does a heroic job, but there's just no way it can help everyone.

Groups are also trying to set up a women's shelter, but are yet to get this off the ground.

A shelter opened in Rotorua in June has just had to close its doors due to consenting issues that meant people were not allowed to sleep in the building.

It's heartening to see that the will is there to do something to help our homeless, but it's clear their needs are struggling to be met.

In Auckland last year, at least two homeless people died while on the streets - one in Onehunga on a cemetery bench and another on the steps of the Manurewa Methodist Church.

It's something that could happen here too.

Following the deaths, the Salvation Army called for community organisations to open their doors to homeless people.

It's a call that Auckland Transport has answered. A brand new $49 million bus station in Manukau will be used as a night shelter for rough sleepers over winter.

The station, which opened in April, will cater for 15 to 20 of an estimated 50 rough sleepers around the centre of Manukau in South Auckland.

It's a bold move, and one that could save lives.

We have many facilities here in the Bay that could provide adequate temporary shelter.

They wouldn't be comfortable, welcoming shelters, but they're a darn sight better than a park bench.

It's time for innovative solutions and I think this is a good one.