The hunt is on as winter approaches for a suitable location to establish a day shelter for Whangārei's growing number of homeless people.

Whangārei woman Carrie Kake, who helps people who are homeless find somewhere to stay, has been wanting to establish a day shelter for more than a year.

"We're not quite into the cold of winter, but it's coming."

She said homeless people needed a warm, dry, friendly place where they could shower and share a meal together. She was aware of people sleeping in cars, sheds and garages.


"It's not getting any better."

She said people from other regions, including Auckland, were buying houses and upping the rents, forcing low-income families out.

"That's the big one," Kake said.

In Whangārei, the median rent hit $410 in April compared with $380 in April 2017 - an 8 per cent rise.

Kake advocates on behalf of homeless people and often opens up her own home while helping get them into private rentals. She hopes the day shelter could lead to a night shelter.

She met with Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai and told her about needing a day shelter. Mai has now added her voice to the call.

Mai has asked council staff if there are any council-owned premises which would be suitable, even as a temporary measure.

She said the Ministry of Social Development had indicated it could help cover the costs, rather than coming from ratepayers' pockets.


"I'm using my role as mayor to raise the issue and ask the community all to help us find a solution."

Already she has had offers from church groups to help, and there are community organisations she plans to speak with.

Carol Peters, of One Double Five community house, said a shelter was "a bloody good idea".

"It's not the end ideal but we need it now," Peter said.

Northland will receive a slice of $63.4 million as part of the Government's Housing First programme over the next four years in a bid to help end homelessness. But Peters said that wouldn't help people this winter.

She said the shelter would be particularly good for those living in cars.

"These people need to wash. They need somewhere to be during the day."

She said there were two main reasons homelessness was increasing.

"The cost of housing is high for people. Many people are left with $25 to $70 to buy food and other things, providing nothing else happens such as a child needing medicine."

The other problem was the amount of housing stock. "There's not enough houses."

She said people were coming up from Auckland "to sleep on the streets because it's warmer" which added to the number of homeless in Whangārei.

Chris Youens and Rochelle Hedges are behind Soul Food What's cooking Whangārei. The pair have been feeding the homeless for the past five years, providing dinners on Mondays and Fridays at the Anglican Church on Kamo Rd.

Youens said about 40 to 60 people turned up for dinner. On Monday this week, the figure was 65. About a month ago they had 85 - the biggest so far.

He said some of those who came for dinner did have a place to stay "but by the time they pay the rent, the power and try get food there's nothing left".

Youens said they had been seeing more of these people. He said the cost of rent, food and petrol had gone up "but their wages don't go up".

Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust chairman Adrian Whale said he was "supportive of any initiative that's going to help these people in crisis".

He said the lack of affordable rental properties was one of the biggest causes of homelessness in Whangārei. "Incomes are too low that they can't reach those levels."

He isn't so sure about labelling the facility a homeless shelter, but said a place where anyone from the community could go and feel safe and welcome was a good thing. Whale said a report from March this year showed in the six months prior, the trust had 182 inquiries.

The Ministry of Social Development's March 2018 housing quarterly report showed there were 328 people in Northland on the Social Housing register.

The social housing register combines those on the housing register and those on the transfer register - those already in public housing but have requested or are eligible for another property.

The housing register contains people who have been assessed as being eligible for public housing. There were 170 people from Whangārei on the housing register in the first quarter of this year. In the same period there were 91 in the Far North and 15 in Kaipara.