A campsite for homeless people is breaking city rules by having too many people living in one place without consent, the council says.

The Te Whare Ora 111 Charitable Trust, which formed in November, is using an Anglican Church-owned site in Ohauiti Rd as an emergency haven for 22 of the city's homeless.

But Tauranga City Council has told the trust it needs to urgently apply for resource consent because the activities on the church site do not comply with city rules.

There is a limit on the number of dwellings and the number of people who can live on a site within a residential zone, plus a restriction on how long caravans can remain on a site.

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A couple and their four children, two women and five men, who are all single, are living in caravans at the church site, and one of this group is acting as site caretaker for the trust.

Another couple, their four children and three other adult family members are sharing an older-style community hall which has two toilets, a shower, a washroom, two rooms used as bedrooms, and a makeshift dining and lounge area.

Te Whare Ora 111 trustees Hoki Bruce and Vicki Davies said the trust was doing its best to help these people transition to permanent housing but had minimal funding to do so.

Bruce said the trust had applied to BayTrust for a funding grant and was finalising funding applications to other charitable trusts and interested private investors.

"But this all takes time," she said.

Bruce said the trust intended applying to become an emergency transitional housing provider but the trustees were not at a stage to finalise their application process.

She said the trust had stopped accepting other homeless people after the council told the trustees that a resource consent was required to continuing operating on the church site.

Bruce said the trust was doing its best to comply with the council's regulations and meet the needs of its homeless clients but needed funding support to able to do so.

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"The reality is that these people desperately need our help because they have nowhere else to go and if they weren't living here they would be forced to sleep on the streets."

This includes a woman, who wanted only to be known as "camp mother", who said she, her working husband and their four children moved to the site four months ago.

They had applied for rental properties all across the city, had several viewings and were on the Ministry of Social Development's social housing waiting list, she said.

"It's deflating and if it wasn't for the trust I would have lost hope weeks ago. This is what the trust does - it gives you hope and motivates you to keep going," she said.

Andrew McMath, the council's environmental protection team leader, said: "We have written and met with the trust and advised them that activities on the site currently require a resource consent."

"A number of council staff have met with Whare Ora to discuss compliance requirements and to further support capacity and capability development of the trust," he said.

The trust was sent an email on March 13 to remind the trustees an urgent meeting was required to pursue the resource consent application and rubbish removal.

McMath said the trust had been asked to consult a planner to apply for resource consent for its activities on the church property.

"We will continue to work with the trust to seek compliance in a reasonable and timely manner, and we have also checked on the wellbeing of the residents on site."

McMath said the council would continue to provide support to the trust while they worked through its compliance requirements.

"The council was concerned about any further displacement of the people residing at the site and do not wish to exacerbate what is already a stressful time for these residents".

McMath said on March 28 the council wrote to the landowner giving them 21 days from receipt of the council's notice to remove any rubbish from the site.

The Bay of Plenty Times sought comment from Reverend Wiremu Anania from the Anglican Church but he did not return calls.

Two residents, who asked not to be named, said they had complained to the council numerous times about the rubbish pile on the site.

"The council keeps giving the trust more time to fix things, meanwhile my property has probably dropped in value by $100,000 and I won't be able to sell it," one resident said.

Mike Bryant, the Ministry of Social Development's regional commissioner, said: "We will continue to talk with and meet with the trust about how it can best support the people the trust is helping and have a liaison staff member to do so."

Anyone with an immediate housing need should contact Work and Income staff, he said.