Community workers are claiming the Napier suburb of Maraenui is now firmly in the grip of synthetic cannabis.

Whatever It Takes Trust Inc general manager Caroline Lampp said the problem had gradually worsened during the past two years.

She believed a "bad batch" had been causing havoc recently, particularly among the homeless.

Their outreach centre in Napier sees many homeless people seek help, and while more often than not, they have addiction issues, it is not the reason they are knocking on WIT's door.

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"They come to us because they are homeless and need the help and many of them have also got addiction issues.

"The police are doing their best and we are all doing our best to deal with it but the responsibility sits with the people that are making it and really they are the ones who need to be held accountable I believe."

The suburb seems desolate in the daytime, with few people strolling around the shopping centre, but under the cover of darkness, it is a different story.

"Come back here tonight and they'll all be here," one woman said - the sight of families being torn apart, enough to make her look past the drug and hold on to her two young children.

Mary Mohawk knows all about the effects of illegal substances, having been addicted to marijuana. But now decades after turning her life around, and 14 years after becoming a Christian, she is committed to helping others.

In her role as a community co-ordinator for "the Hub", run By City Rock Church, she sees the impact the drug has on people. "It has split up families, split up relationships and split up who they are as a person," Mohawk said. "You do see it."

She said it was about providing a safe place for people to come to without being judged.

"I have a heart for Maraenui and I understand where they are in life.

"It is not about forcing people, it is about offering different strategies and ours is through Jesus Christ because we know Jesus is the answer but we don't push that on people, we open our hub up for people to come in."

She has heard of children as young as 13 taking the drug.

St John Central South District Operations Manager, Steve Yanko, said since the beginning of the year St John has responded to a national weekly average of 33 calls provisionally linked to synthetic drugs.

In St John's Central South region including Hawke's Bay, there were 68 in all, an average of two per week.

He said the figures span 1 January to 6 August 2018 and exclude Wellington Free Ambulance figures.