Rotorua's new community drop-in centre has opened its doors to help feed those in need and project leaders say the response has been "overwhelming".

Tiny Deane, Lara Northcroft and Wetini Mitai Ngatai opened the drop-in centre in the CBD as a way to give back to the community.

The service, funded out of their own pocket and from donations, aims to feed those who can't afford it and has future plans to involve wraparound services.

Yesterday the Rotorua Daily Post went along as more than 60 people in need came for a free lunch.

Mr Deane said this first stage was about getting to know the people they were helping.


"It's letting them get to know us, for us to trust them and for them to trust us.

"Our aim really is to help them, so to start it is food, but we want to help them find work and get the support they need."

He said when they first started they had no idea how big the problem was and it was quite confronting seeing it all come together in one room.

"They were really respectful, they cleaned up their own mess, they did all the dishes, wiped up after themselves."

Wetini Mitai Ngatai, Lara Northcroft and Tony Deane with volunteers and people they have helped. photo/Ben Fraser
Wetini Mitai Ngatai, Lara Northcroft and Tony Deane with volunteers and people they have helped. photo/Ben Fraser

Among those enjoying their lunch were trained carpenters, butchers and labourers who couldn't find work.

"We are getting them to feel like they're part of the community again, taking them out to do volunteer work until they can find a job."

The drop-in centre will also be bringing in housing and mental services to help rough sleepers.

Tipene Morehu said he had spent the past two years living on the street but was lucky to have recently been taken in by a friend.

"For some this will be the only food they get today.

"I have already had a chat about volunteering here until I can find work."

Miss Northcroft said the response had been heartwarming but she was shocked at just how many people needed help.

"We're going through like 20 loaves of bread a day, boxes of cereal and 12 litres of milk every day.

"We just want to create a place where people can feel safe and welcome."

The team would like to thank Mitai Village, Kaitao Intermediate, Wananga o Aotearoa, Ben Sandford and all other members of the community who have already made donations.

How you can help

• Donate fruit, milk and loaves of bread, pantry items, tins of food or boxes of cereal.
• They also need couches, arm chairs, microwaves, pantry cupboards, bookshelves and books, rugs, a vacuum, clothes racks, plates, cups, cutlery, slow cookers, oven trays, toasted sandwich makers, etc.
• You are also able to make a financial donation.
• To make a donation or to volunteer your time visit the centre at 1225 Pukuatua St, above the Salvation Army.