Every Tuesday evening the sound of music can be heard wafting out of the open church basement doors near the corner of Pitt St and Karangahape Road.

The source of the music can be found inside the small room, beneath Pitt St Methodist Church, where the Auckland Street Choir, several of whom are homeless, are rehearsing.

Tomorrow marks World Homelessness Day and ahead of the event the Herald went to watch the choir practise the set it will perform in Aotea Square at an event to mark the day and raise awareness of the homeless community.

On this particular night there were at least three newcomers, including one man who got right into the rhythm bopping and singing along to the strum of the guitar as the choir warmed up with a hearty rendition of Nga Iwi E.


Choir director Rohan MacMahon said he first established the choir two years ago after noticing a rise in the numbers of homeless on Auckland's city streets - to boost morale and bring people together.

"It's the only choir I'm aware of that tries really hard to involve homeless people and to bring them together through the harmony of singing and the community."

His initial band of three has steadily grown to the more than 25 regular attendees who fill the small practice room most weeks.

MacMahon said the members were looking forward to marking World Homelessness Day with the public performance.

"I think it will have a great sense of aroha on the day and we are really looking forward to it."

Honotana Tamihana from the Auckland Street Choir. Photo / Dean Purcell
Honotana Tamihana from the Auckland Street Choir. Photo / Dean Purcell

Honotana Tamihana, 63, was looking forward to putting a smile on people's faces tomorrow.

The keen singer, who grew up playing the guitar, strummed a few tunes before the practice got underway but said stiffness in his hands meant he preferred to just sing.

He joined the choir a couple of months ago and has enjoyed making new friends and was pleased to discover "at this age" he could still sing.


"Every time you come together, I really enjoy it, it takes away all the pain," he said. "Enjoying the company, friendship, there's a lot of empathy for each other you know."

Tamihana has spent "virtually" all his adult life on and off the streets since coming to Auckland at 17 in search of relatives.

"At first it was hard, but after you get used to it, as you get older . . . you couldn't get a home, or you were kicked out. Living with people who when they are drinking, fighting started, so you are between streets and homes."

Today Tamihana calls a lodge in Grey Lynn home - his sixth in recent times.

The Auckland Street Choir, rehearsing at the Pitt St Methodist Church. Photo / Dean Purcell
The Auckland Street Choir, rehearsing at the Pitt St Methodist Church. Photo / Dean Purcell

Paul Timinis, a Housing First support worker, said there were several other choir members with a lived street experience and at least five or six who were still homeless.

He said the choir gave them a place to be themselves and be part of a community.

"Some of our whanau find it very hard to say hello out in the streets, without being judged. This choir group has reconnected everybody."

Timinis joined the choir back in February.

"For me, joining the choir was about wanting to understand their role [the homeless] in who they are, understanding where they come from.

"I am one of many who come and turn up and enjoy, just being ordinary people in a choir group."