Tauranga's new homeless women's shelter will open its doors in two weeks, on April 8, it was announced today.
The shelter, which has been named Awhina House, is located in a building in the Avenues, with 12 bedrooms available for local homeless women.
"It's not a short-term, overnight stay," general manager Angela Wallace said.
"It's where we'll be welcoming women who are wanting to make changes and work on setting some goals and moving into their own independent housing.
"People who are ready for change and ready to work with our staff to bring about that change."
Wallace said Awhina House will have four fulltime equivalent staff, including a live-in house parent. She expected it to be at capacity straight away.
The April 8 opening day was timely, with the city council's new begging and rough sleeping restrictions coming into effect on April 1, and with winter fast approaching.
Wallace said it felt like a long journey to get to this point, but was actually only about 10 months or "just a bit over the gestation of a baby".
She said work began in earnest in June last year, when a hīkoi for the homeless in Tauranga sparked the formation of the Community Angels collective.
A commitment was made then by the group to create a safe space for the city's homeless women.
"So that was the seed that was planted to start Awhina House and now we're ready, with the shoot growing and bearing some fruit," Wallace said.
She said there had been challenges along the way, like thieves breaking into the building earlier this year and stealing a washing machine, lawnmower, weedeater, power tools and garden equipment.
The people of Tauranga responded in force, however, and Wallace said the donations and ongoing support from the community had been a constant source of encouragement.
The shelter was made possible by funding from the Tauranga City Council, Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT), the Acorn Foundation and Craigs Investment Partners, Synergy Technology, Watchmen Security and BayTrust.
Wallace said if people are homeless and need help they should be contacting the Ministry of Social Development and Work and Income New Zealand, where they will be helped into emergency accommodation.
"The main way for women to come to Awhina House will be through referrals from agencies they are engaged with and our focus is on our local homeless women, those who call Tauranga Moana home."
Wallace said Awhina House had been engaging with organisations working directly with the homeless in Tauranga, letting them know when the shelter would be open for referrals.
The opening day announcement was made at a supporters' hui at Maungatapu Marae this afternoon.
How you can help
Awhina House is inviting businesses and individuals to sponsor a room for $4000 a year, which will cover all the basic expenses for the women who will go through that room.