COMMENT: Remember when the south Auckland suburb of Manukau announced it was going to make its bus shelter available for rough sleepers?
There was the usual outcry and backlash from the usual suspects about how this would never work and you'd just see a surge of unsavoury characters streaming into bus shelters hanging around innocent school children waiting to catch their bus.
Well guess what? It's been a success. No problems so far at all.
A core group of rough sleepers have taken up the offer and they're obeying the rules. There's currently 11 men and two women sleeping there.
They're taking the opportunity to rest, they're in around 10pm, fed soup, then up at about 6am to clean up their beds, and are out of there by 6.30am.
The feedback's been positive from the community: they're on board helping out, giving food, volunteering to serve food, and monitor the sleepers overnight. How awesome is that? One act of kindness seems to have spurred a domino effect in acts of kindness.
The shelter said from the outset that if there were any incidents of anti-social behaviour they would shut it down. There haven't been, so it remains open.
It makes me wonder why we can't do this in more places? The Salvation Army are advocates of giving rough sleepers shelter, I would've thought churches and church halls would be a good and obvious place to start.
But imagine if every bus shelter or facility that was able to be open 24/7 could supply a roof over the heads of our homeless?
Think about all the rough sleepers you see in alleyways, shop doorways, outside mall car parks, under bridge - we're not as bad as the United States or the UK, but we can't ignore the fact we have our fair share of people sleeping on the street.
What's cool about this south Auckland experiment is that it's proven how much people want to be kind: when given an opportunity or an outlet to help, they do.
One couple turned up late one night saying they'd heard about the shelter and just wanted to help out. It feels good to do good.
I'd like to think it remains trouble-free at the Manukau shelter, and that its success spurs more communities into opening up their doors to our homeless.