"A lot of the public said, we don't need a homeless women shelter in Tauranga because there's no homeless women in Tauranga."

Angela Wallace is the general manager of Tauranga's first Women's shelter.

It's a world away from her previous life as a creative designer for Hollywood movies.

"I was dressing sets on jobs like the Narnia films, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, Yogi Bear."


"They're completely different worlds," she said. "You're working in an imaginary, fabricated world, whereas here it's so grounded in reality. We are dealing with people in crisis, women in crisis. People with real problems."

Her passion for helping the homeless began when she moved back to Tauranga in 2013.

"It was a different Tauranga to what I had grown up with. I saw homelessness, I saw people sitting on the streets asking for help, and I just thought this isn't how things should be."

Confronted by this need, Angela decided to do something.

She wanted to create a safe haven for some of city's homeless women… and so Awhina House was born.

"We have an awesome men's shelter in Tauranga, Takitimu House, and that was established in 2014. That was established for men, but there's still nothing for our women so that's when the seed of the idea was planted in my heart that we need to establish a homeless shelter for women."

"You don't see the homeless women as much in Tauranga because they are vulnerable, they hide themselves away. You see the men a lot more, but there are many homeless women in Tauranga."

But turning her idea into reality wasn't easy.


"I wrote a proposal almost three years ago and I was taking it around to different people. I took it to my Church, and when the bylaw was suggested in Tauranga that no one can rough sleep on the streets in the city, that's when our trust got together and said, 'right this has to happen now'."

The 12 bed shelter is funded by Tauranga City Council, and works on a referral system.

Angela says she has no plans to return to her old job.

"I keep having to pinch myself because this is really a dream come true for our trust, and we've worked hard to bring this about. So the fact we're sitting here today in Awhina House and we're open... we are just stoked."

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