As the sun rises over Hastings, Jane Trask folds up a piece of cardboard she slept on the night before and begins her day.
She doesn't like leaving it behind and always returns it to a skip bin "so that people can't say I have left a mess".
Recently, her mornings have consisted of a walk to Hastings Church for some breakfast.
She also likes visiting the library and reading books or newspapers.
This is not the life she imagined for herself - being homeless at the age of 53 - but it is her reality, and the reality of a growing number of people across Hawke's Bay.
"I don't want to be homeless. 'I never thought this would happen to me in this country."
Trask, who has lived in Hawke's Bay since she was about 13, has spent much of her life working and being housed.
It was not until her late 30s that she started living on the streets on and off again.
"People think people that are homeless have never worked or have no work ethic or have no idea about how to do anything. Well, that's not true."
She told the Hawke's Bay Today she was first forced onto the streets in the mid-to-late 2000s after getting booted out of a Housing NZ (now known as Kainga Ora) home.
She said her one-bedroom home on Mairangi St in Hastings was sold to a private owner, and the Government at the time was selling off a lot of state housing.
"Even though I was a long-term tenant with Housing NZ it did not mean anything," she said.
"Someone had bought the house.
"Housing NZ came around, my tenancy manager, and said that we had 90 days to find other accommodation."
Trask, who is bipolar and previously ran a support group for others with bipolar, said she had struggled to find long-term housing since being evicted.
She said she suffered a horror assault while homeless about a decade ago which included a serious head injury.
Trask said that meant it was difficult for her to work and she was currently on a waiting list for public housing.
She said she desperately wanted long-term accommodation and somewhere she could call home.
"This is not just about me. This is about thousands of people in our country having to live like this," she said.
"We are just a lost number in a system that doesn't work."
Housing Register balloons in four years
As at September 2021, there were 2170 people on the Housing Register across the East Coast region, including 1475 people in Napier and Hastings.
That register is for people who have been deemed eligible for public housing but are on the waiting list.
Sadly, the number of people on the waiting list across the East Coast has almost quadrupled during the last four years.
The Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Housing did not say exactly how many people on the waiting list were currently receiving emergency housing grants - which involves people being placed in motels in Hawke's Bay - or transitional housing support.
Trask said she had been given emergency housing in the past in various motels but had grown sick of being moved from motel to motel and "living out of a suitcase".
"I'm not a travelling salesman. I want stability and I need that and that is why I did not want to play their game any more."
She said she would not settle for motel living any more and wanted long-term accommodation.
"I have never given up hope - I never give up hope - but I don't think it will be a reality any time soon."
Trask, who usually sleeps behind buildings, said she believed homelessness was growing in Hawke's Bay and she had noticed a spike in people living out of their cars.
Trask said she had recently spoken to a young mum in Napier who was crying and living out of her car with her partner and baby.
"I had a $50 note in my pocket and I said 'Take this'. And she said 'I can't take that from a homeless person'. I said 'You can and you are going to'," she said. "I like to help people."
Trask said she received money through a benefit and through ACC payments, following her serious assault, but it was not enough to cover rental accommodation.
She said she believed it was an "availability not an affordability" issue behind a lack of public housing options, and there was simply not enough housing stock around Hawke's Bay.
Plan to build more public housing
Ministry of Housing housing supply, response and partnerships deputy chief executive Anne Shaw said Hawke's Bay had some of the highest housing need in New Zealand.
She said the Government planned to build between 340 and 590 extra public housing places in the East Coast region over the next four years, plus up to 170 transitional homes.
However, she said addressing homelessness was complex and involved other services as well.
"Tackling homelessness goes beyond just building public and transitional housing.
"We have housing first services, sustaining tenancies services and a range of other initiatives."
She said a two-year pilot programme called He Kakano, between Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga Trust and the Whatever It Takes Trust, had been established in Hastings.
"The clients for He Kakano are the 'hard basket' of homeless people who have been on and off the streets for years, evicted from motels and houses and have numerous issues such as mental health and addictions.
"The aim is to build trust with the He Kakano participants and over time support them into more permanent housing solutions."
Hastings Church pastor Warren Heke said they started a drop-in centre offering food and support for the homeless about five years ago after seeing a clear need.
Heke said they get anywhere between 15 and 30 people coming along for breakfast or to use lockers to store items, and the drop-in centre operated between Monday and Thursday mornings.
He said homelessness was a complex issue around Hawke's Bay but he encouraged more people to get involved and to help where they could.
"I think because New Zealand has had a pretty cushy life and it is common for us to think New Zealand is a pretty good place to live, we have grown a bit complacent about caring for one another.
"We end up putting all that responsibility on the Government or on agencies and assuming that they just need to sort it out," he said.
"They can't answer these problems and that is evident in what is happening.
"So it is up to us to make some choices ourselves."
He said the pressure on housing would likely continue for quite a while, and could result in homelessness continuing to grow.