COMMENT:I'd barely finished espousing the merits of the trial being run for homeless people to sleep in the South Auckland bus shelter, before I see it's over.
And it's finished earlier than planned too.
It feels like only a couple of weeks ago I was saying how well it was going – no dramas, the community seemed to be pitching in and helping out, the rough sleepers were keeping it seemly.
And I said I thought it was a shame more places didn't open their doors to our homeless. Especially in the cold harsh winter months.
Fast forward a couple of weeks though, and it appears the trial project has hit a wall. A business group in the area has said it doesn't want it to continue, because it attracted more homeless to the vicinity.
Business Manukau also said the initiative had led to an increase in anti-social behaviour, including more begging and loitering round shop doorways, which was intimidating shop owners, staff and customers.
Fair enough, that's not cool. The idea behind this project though was sound - keeping homeless people dry and warm through the harshest winter months
The Salvation Army, in conjunction with Auckland Transport, ran the scheme, which relied on volunteers. That proved tricky too.
After an initial flurry of people wanting to help, it became harder to find those willing to give up their time. A case of volunteer fatigue perhaps?
About 10 people a night were sleeping at the bus shelter and it was trouble-free (bar one incident of someone smoking in the toilets and getting abusive when told not to).
So what were the positives? Well the people of South Auckland responded positively in general, offering up their support.
Other community organisations, such as churches, began opening up their own doors.
A domino effect of kindness.
But it would seem when it comes to managing the country's homeless it's not possible to rely on a bottomless pit of goodwill from other people.
It's pleasing this Government is focused on better outcomes for our homeless. It's a shame community responses can't garner more widespread sustainable support, but it shouldn't fall on the shoulders of a handful of do-gooders, and it shouldn't just be the Salvation Army's problem. These people already do amazing work.
What we need are some tangible solutions like more emergency housing, or at least enough to cope, so that people don't get turned away - especially in the cold grip of winter.