The "homeless bros" of a rough sleeper who died outside a church on a wintry night last week have remembered him as a giving man.

Sam Thomas Manahi, 59, was found dead on the back step of Manurewa Methodist Church last Tuesday morning. He was wrapped in a bright red sleeping bag pulled tight to his face. Church members thought he was having a lie-in until he still hadn't moved at 9.30am.

He was the second known such death of a homeless person in two weeks as a polar blast grips the nation.

Almost 100 people, including Maori wardens, homeless people, family, police and pastors attended his funeral today.

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Sam Manahi, known as Kingi, enjoyed the freedom of the streets, but he died there on a cold winter's night. Photo / Supplied
Sam Manahi, known as Kingi, enjoyed the freedom of the streets, but he died there on a cold winter's night. Photo / Supplied

Frances Duncan, who has lived on the streets by the name of "Nature" since 1985, was with Manahi the night he died and one of the first to raise the alarm.

She said a group of them had been sleeping in a huddle on the back step. They left Manahi because they thought he was sleeping in. It was only when they came back an hour later for the soup kitchen that Duncan touched his face and realised he had died.

"He was like rest of us, no home, sad upbringing. He'd give away every last cent he had.

"He's homeless, of course he's sick. He had a brutal cough."

Duncan calls herself the "street mum" and takes Manurewa's homeless under her wing. Her last headcount found 47 rough sleepers in the area, including a 15-year-old. She knew of four people that had died in her area in the last two months.

The 47-year-old believed they desperately needed a homeless shelter and a food bank in the area, a place where the rough sleepers could get off the streets in bone-chilling wintry nights.

Duncan was keen to see Manahi's death represent the larger issue of the homeless needing support.

"If they don't do something for our homeless there'll be more dying."

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A rough sleeper from West Auckland, Robert Marriner, remembered Manahi as a man who put everyone before himself.

"The only thing he wouldn't share was his hat."

Rough sleeper Robert Marriner wished he had died instead of Sam. Photo / Sarah Harris
Rough sleeper Robert Marriner wished he had died instead of Sam. Photo / Sarah Harris

Marriner, who has been on the streets for 33 years, wished he was the one who was dead. He felt he had been left standing to give a voice to the homeless and wanted to speak out against the lack of support that was available.

He recounted his dad's death, sister's murder, mum's death and brother's suicide.

"I wish that was me, but for some reason it's not."

Manahi's brother, Toko Manahi, said Sam was the oldest of seven and had four children and "many moko".

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He called Manahi a strong-willed man who left home in Rotorua at 15 to hitchhike around Australia.

"He was the rangatira [leader] for our family. I suppose he felt more freedom in the open than he did in a room."

Sam Manahi's son Chad, eldest granddaughter Hinerangi, niece Te Haina and granddaughter Huia. Photo / Sarah Harris
Sam Manahi's son Chad, eldest granddaughter Hinerangi, niece Te Haina and granddaughter Huia. Photo / Sarah Harris

Cousin Marsh Herewini spoke of how Manahi, a "warrior", loved the freedom and independence he had on the streets after stints in jail.

"He was locked in cells so long he missed the open air. He'd have nothing but he'd give you the shirt off his back. If you were hungry he'd give you his last dollar."

Herewini wanted some good to come of Manahi's death. He hoped it would inspire the Government to support those sleeping rough.

"The fella died outside, a dog wouldn't have died outside.

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"We need to start treating our people like humans."

His niece Te Haina Manahi, 27, thanked the homeless for taking care of her uncle. She said her uncle had been on the streets most of his life after a harsh upbringing of being beaten by his dad.

"Him and my dad got bad hidings as children that caused them to run away."