"Wow, this is actually mine."
Walking through his new home for the first time last week, Ross, who only wants to be known by his first name, is apprehensive and lost for words.
"It's the first time I've had a house of my own ... it was a very special moment."
Ross had been on the streets for 25 years before walking through the doors of Takitimu House three months ago.
He is the youngest of 14 children and when his parents died, he ended up on the streets.
The following years were spent sliding into darkness through violence, addiction, and time behind bars.
"I found myself at the bottom of the gutter."
His childhood traumas hung over him, which began with an abusive family home.
"My father was exactly like Jake the Muss from Once Were Warriors."
While homeless, his nights would be spent with his head on a rock, and he did not realise he did not have to be cold all the time.
"I couldn't see a light at the end of my tunnel."
But he now sits with shelter manager Annamarie Angus in a neat brown jersey, socks pulled up mid-shin, his shoulders relaxed and a twinkle in his eyes.
He is one of 10 men who were supported into housing by the shelter in a record month last month.
The men went to a range of accommodation types - private rentals, social housing and rest homes.
Within a few days of being at the shelter, Ross noticed a shift in his mindset.
The three months were difficult but the support from staff, other men, and the multiple wrap-around services and programmes kept him going.
"I can see my children being with me, I can see happiness which wasn't there before, I can see them growing to love me as a father."
This week, he starts his construction job in Omokoroa.
Angus sat back and smiled listening to him speak of his journey and said people came through at "different stages of readiness".
While Ross worked through his issues and was housed within three months, another man who was housed last month had been with the shelter for three years.
"They need to recover and they need to rebuild before any of them are able to be housed," which depended on how ready they were to work through their trauma.
The complications men arrived with varied, including generational and systemic trauma, discrimination, and disconnection from family, whānau, and society in general, she said.
Other challenges were poverty, significant mental and physical health problems, phenomenal debt, detrimental tenancy histories, criminal backgrounds and substance abuse.
Some had no identification, no doctor, no bank account.
On top of this; some felt anger, a sense of loss, hopelessness, and defeat.
"Our people would still feel like they are teetering on the edge of society with no real meaning to their lives, even with a roof over their heads," Angus said.
Psychologist David Chaplow had worked with the shelter for a number of years.
He had facilitated the physical and mental assessment of some of the homeless.
Chaplow said with the extensive issues that needed addressing, the wrap-around services at Takitimu had set a high benchmark.
With 4000 people identified as homeless in the Western Bay of Plenty by the Mayoral Taskforce, Angus said as a society, the issues had been left too long, and there was no quick fix.
There were specifically designed programmes held on-site, most of which were comprised of grassroots therapeutic value such as the Wakaunua Whaihauora Programme and Kei hea Koe Wananga.
Other services dealt with practical issues such as budgeting, meaningful activities, work, or volunteer work.
Housing providers, mental and physical health providers, counselling services, corrections and justice, Whānau Ora, Kaupapa Māori Services, iwi, hapū, and members of the community include those making the extended team.
"Many of our people will not or have not been accepted into services outside of the shelter, or service delivery has not been timely, flexible, or personal enough.
"Jumping through hoops is soul-destroying. The men have jumped these hoops most of their lives and to date have had little success."
Housing, while it was a goal, was not the main priority, Angus explained, with stability, health, reconnection, independence, a sense of wellbeing, and worthiness the key focuses.
There was structure, routine, expectations, and rules which kept the house a place where people could find calm and reflection.
It is through the shelter's wānanga and consistent awhi that Angus said best prepared the men for a life of independence.
"A holistic approach in its truest form achieves successful transformations of lives that have been broken."
The men continued to be supported after leaving the shelter, and Angus said it would be at least once a week in the initial stages of the transition.
Many continued to come back to the shelter, staying engaged in the support programmes.
Kei hea Koe Wānanga alone had been "transformational" in terms of addressing trauma which had "taken our men's recovery and wairua to an entirely new level".
There was an in-house assessment and referral process that allowed individuals to create, evaluate, and reach their goals.
"It's vital to get it right the first time... our people's most basic needs have not been met in the past, this doesn't happen on our watch."
"Housing is the icing on the cake... it's a huge deal to see these men transform their lives."
Accessible Properties Tauranga had 1160 properties in Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Papamoa and Te Puke and focused on working with individuals and families.
General manager Vicki McLaren said the work was a collaborative approach to matching the limited housing stock "to the avalanche of need we are facing".
"We have a welfare system struggling to deal with big social challenges that it was never designed for."
McLaren said being able to support the men in rebuilding their lives were "mini-miracles".
Trustee Vicki Scott said the unconditional support was something some of the men had never experienced.
"It's not enough to dump people into accommodation without intensive wrap around awhi."
"Our Annamarie is a modern day Mother Teresa."
Meanwhile, back at Ross' place, he's excited to begin his new job and plans to keep his house neat and tidy.