Demand for the Street Kai (Milo Nights) services has grown in leaps and bounds in the last two-and-half years but the kaupapa remains the same. Sandra Conchie reports.
Do you want some kai? Do you want more kai?
• Makeshift village for homeless in Ōhauiti, Tauranga sparks backlash from other residents
• 'New lease on life': Six more houses officially opened for Tauranga's homeless in ceremony
• Premium - Revealed: Just how much housing Tauranga homeless has cost taxpayers
• 'Unforgivable' - Homeless react to Tauranga ban on begging and rough sleeping
That's the old-school "kaupapa" of a Tauranga community-led initiative to help feed the homeless and the growing number of working poor who need a helping hand.
Demand for Street Kai (Milo Nights) services have grown in the past two-and-half years.
Street Kai (Milo Nights) co-ordinator Tracey Carlton, who was there from the start, said what began with just a handful of volunteers and feeding 20 people had more than quadrupled in that time.
The number of people regularly being assisted during Monday night's Milo Night events in Willow Street has grown from 60 last winter to at least 120 last month, she said.
Carlton said dedicated volunteers called Street Kai Auntys aged in their teens to their 70s who came from all walks of life turned up every Monday night, "rain, hail or shine".
"What's changed even in the past four month is that we're now looking after more working poor, including some professionals, who due to their high rents can't afford to buy kai as well as pay other bills."
Carlton said according to statistics from Tauranga City Council the homeless community in the city has grown from 407 in the winter of 2017 to 700 last month.
Prosecuting beggars 'pointless' advocates say
Te Puke housing crisis to be highlighted in hui
"It's high rents, lack of affordable housing and the total lack of social housing in Tauranga which is helping drive our homeless numbers up. It's appalling," she said.
"We're incredibly proud our Milo Nights are a community response to a need delivered in a non-judgemental way to people who often embarrassed to have to ask for help.
"Looking after our homeless is about sharing our resources with people who are often feeling too scared, isolated and embarrassed to have to seek help to support themselves."
Carlton said along with kai they also sourced toiletries, blankets, sleeping bags, tents and items of clothing and other basic needs for their clients.
"Despite some people's views people don't want to live on the streets or in their cars but are being forced to do so due to the dire situation they find themselves in.
"We're proud that we continue to offer some stability to these people by old-school values of consistency for our peeps by rocking up week after week while the need still exists."
"Our kaupapa is - Do you want some kai? Then we ask, "Do you want more kai? and the conversation about other needs starts from there."
Tauranga City Council decision to consult on whether to revoke the begging and rough sleeping bylaw must include the homeless whose voices were often not heard, she said.
Carlton said in her view the mental health of homeless people she had dealt with had rapidly declined since the begging and rough sleep ban had come into force.
"We've lost four men in the past two years and the huge impact of that is still being felt."
Carlton said among the local business who regularly support Street Kai is the Cornerstone Stone Pub, Our Place and Dame Susan Devoy has also come on board.
"A big thank you to the Cornerstone Pub, Our Place, Excelso Cafe, Frank at Anchor Milk, all our awesome Auntys, volunteers and our Street Kai team who make our Milo Night community so welcoming and inclusive and provide yummy kai for our meal."
Regular supporter Cornerstone Pub hosted a Christmas Day luncheon for the homeless.
Carlton said the ultimate goal in 2020 was to have a more permanent space in the CBD.
"We're searching for a building to establish a wellbeing community hub for our peeps to give them a place to eat kai, shower, rest and be together to chat and support each other.
"This would a win-win community solution for everyone," she said.
A legal challenge from the Tauranga Housing Advocacy Trust which argued the begging and rough sleeping bylaw is a breach of the Bill of Rights is set to be heard on March 5.