Tauranga's homeless have found a roof over their heads at an unlikely spot and the success of the scheme will see it extended. Journalist Kelly Makiha finds out how locals will be impacted.
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The homeless can continue to stay at Tauranga's RSA but the good news for punters is the bar is now open again.
Tauranga RSA has just signed another lease agreement with Tauranga's Te Tuinga Whānau Support Services Trust which will see its 24 rooms onsite rented to those who have nowhere else to go.
It's been a win-win for both parties and as of this week the RSA's bar will open again to customers.
They say the security provided by the trust ensures there are no undesirables around the bar area and patrons can feel comfortable and safe about returning to their favourite watering hole.
Trust executive director Tommy Wilson said when lockdown hit, they needed to find beds fast and the RSA on Cameron Rd came to the rescue.
Since then, they had repeated the RSA model and filled another vacant motel, the Summit Motor Lodge, and they were working on securing another motel as well.
The newly-signed three-month lease at the RSA had come just at the right time.
"It will get us through winter."
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Wilson said they had an in-house doctor two days a week - a leader in drug and alcohol addiction services - who worked with the homeless people to assess their needs and there were onsite social workers who were helping them through any issues.
"We have set up somewhat of a grading system. We get them into the RSA, they then get themselves sorted out and go to the Summit Motor Lodge and from there we send them out to one of our 30 houses and by then they have a good chance of enjoying a life like you and I."
He said while there were some homeless who were back on the street, most were now being looked after.
"You will always get families and individuals who will hop from one service to the next and they are not ready to meet their problems. We can only help those who really want to help themselves and we put them through our filter and that's where we get success."
Tauranga RSA president Fred Milligan said the RSA's restaurant had been open since last week and this week the bar would reopen every day except on Sunday and Monday. He said the hours at this stage would be from 2pm until 8pm.
"We have got no idea how it is going to work. We can only assume people will be interested and will come back because we've had a few calls from people asking."
He said it was working well with the trust and its security ensured everyone was safe.
"The old oak tree is functioning again and we look forward to seeing everyone."
Returned serviceman Dick Frew, 84, said he was looking forward to getting back to the RSA and having a beer with his friends.
Frew, who served in Malaya from 1959 to 1961, said it felt like it had been a long time and the news of its reopening was welcoming.
"It's comradeship isn't it? There used to be about 10 of us who would go every Friday night and we'd stand around the table and have a yarn."
He said he'd tried substituting his usual Friday night outing during lockdown by having a few drinks at home.
"But it's not the same is it?"
He said the accommodation deal for the homeless wouldn't bother him.
"As long as everyone's safe it will be good. I'm really looking forward to it."